Second in the Mangled Spells Series

Mangled Spells and Girly Bits


Xander stumbled off the plane and would have fallen if long tentacles hadn’t reached out to steady her until she could get her thankfully simple dress untangled.

“Oi, hands off mate,” Spike threw down a couple of bags and then jumped out of the cargo hold himself.

“So sorry, just helping,” offered the demon working the plane and the tentacles withdrew beneath the uniform leaving a human-looking worker. Xander felt Spike’s arm slip around her waist, and she found it almost comforting. Of course over the last many hours that arm had been the only thing keeping her from decorating the inside of a jet’s cargo hold with her own blood, so that might actually account for the comforting aspect of his hold. Spike shouldered the two bags and guided her around various service people toward the main building.

“So, are you going to tell me where we are or have we reached the game show portion of the festivities?” Xander asked once they’d left the demon behind and entered a large steel and glass building bustling with people.

“You bloody Americans, you really don’t know anythin’ about the rest of the world.”

“Hey, never expected to live long enough to see anything past Los Angeles,” Xander retorted. “So, glass and steel would rule out Africa, right?”

“And what exactly does Africa look like in your imagination?” Spike snorted.

“Grass huts and spears, right?” Xander said as she studied the signs. ‘Stationnement’ one sign announced, and Xander wondered why the French word for parking lot should have stuck in her mind. At least, that’s what she thought it meant. Spike had been silent a little too long, so she turned to see the vampire looking at her with open shock.

“Mud huts and shields?” she tried with a straight face.

“Bloody Americans. I soddin’ well hope you’re jokin’ pet.” Spike said with a shake of his head. “We’re goin’ ta meet some people; need ta pick up some of my dosh.”

“Can I at least hope that dosh isn’t something incredibly disgusting like demon liver?”

“It’s money, ya ninny,” Spike said.

“Master Spike,” intoned a voice behind her, and Xander jumped forward nearly two feet only to find herself pulled back by the wrist held imprisoned within Spike’s grip. A human-looking man appearing to be in his mid-twenties stood there with his head tilted toward Spike. Xander guessed vampire.

“Antonio,” Spike answered and Xander felt herself pulled back to Spike’s side.

“I swear, someone should make you guys wear bells,” Xander complained. Antonio responded with a surprised look to Spike.

“Xander, Antonio,” Spike said curtly. “She’s not on the menu,” he said with a small growl.

“Of course Master Spike, she will make a most beautiful companion.” Xander started to complain, but the tightness of the fingers around her wrist convinced her that she really didn’t want to lose the use of her hand.

“Geez, possessive much?” she whispered to Spike, and the hold only tightened.

“Yes,” the vampire replied as he threw the bags at Antonio.

Xander bit her tongue to keep from telling Spike exactly what she thought of that since she suspected that he wouldn’t find her nearly as amusing in front of the minion. She managed to keep silent through their hike to the car, the ride, and the walk up to a beautiful estate, but when a vamp in a silk suit and game face started openly ogling at her, she couldn’t resist.

“Hey, keep your eyes to yourself, buddy. Not a happy meal here,” Xander snapped, and she felt Spike stiffen slightly beside her.

“Your slave has a lovely mouth,” the other master sarcastically told Spike as he twirled a glass full of red liquid. What bad vampire movie had he seen to pick up *that* trick she wondered.

“I prefer the term un-free American,” Xander retorted.

“Really, I didn’t think slaves had preferences at all,” the master took a step closer, and Xander thanked god that Spike stood so close that she could feel him at her back.

“Oh, you really have to try harder than that if you’re going for menacing. Try showing more fang or maybe a little growl thrown in. Spike’s good at the growl thing, maybe he could show you.” Xander’s guts twisted in fear, but if she started backing down and cringing now, she knew she wouldn’t last a day. She faced Angelus and she could face these guys.

“Oh, I can do menacing girl, believe me. If your master gives me a chance, I’ll teach you to show respect.”

“Funny thing, Angelus said something like that once,” Xander tried for casual, but she realized that she was starting to panic at the thought of Spike giving her away. The thought hadn’t even occurred to her until that moment, but suddenly the vampire behind her seemed like a very good choice of travel companion.

“I remember that,” Spike suddenly said. “He was right annoyed that ya made him back down seein’ as how he’d gone there ta kill the girl.”

“He was actually going to kill her that time? I thought he was just doing more of his torture Buffy thing.” Xander turned and realized when she saw Spike’s serious face that the vampire wasn’t joking or exaggerating.

“Ya put yourself on his short list with that stunt, and ya won’t be doin’ anythin’ that stupid again,” Spike growled.

“You see,” Xander whipped around to the other master who looked at her in shock. “The growl, add the growl and it just sounds more menacing. Of course, I’ll probably still do something stupid because that’s kinda my thing—being stupid, but at least I feel menaced.”

“You expect me to believe this slip of a girl faced down Master Angelus? Or maybe it was that pathetic souled version of your sire she faced. I hear he’s been wandering the hell mouth lately.”

“Nope, it was Angelus. Angel annoys me what with him following after Buffy and all, but Angelus is the psycho who tried to get past me when he wanted to kill the slayer.”

“The slayer?” And wow, that got the master’s attention.

“My pet was one a the slayer’s minions. Stole her myself,” Spike said nonchalantly, but Xander could see what Spike was doing as clearly as if he had raised a neon sign. Well she could do snark just as well as he could.

“Hey, not a minion. More like a second in command. Okay, maybe third in command because Giles, the watcher, is all research boy, and that’s just not me. Give me a stake though and I’ll be there hiding behind the slayer every time. I even manage to take out a couple minions every week, well except those months that Buffy took off and the three of us had to patrol for her. I killed a lot of minions that summer.”

“Your girl tells fanciful tales,” the master said with an incredulous expression. “Will you allow her to stand there and lie about killing minions, not just minions but minions born on the hell mouth?”

“Not just minions? And why aren’t they ‘just minions’?” Xander turned to Spike and asked curiously.

“Minions on the hell mouth rise stronger than minions anywhere else, pet,” Spike offered.

“Having fought minions on the hell mouth, I have to say that’s kinda pathetic. Doesn’t say much about minions raised off the hell mouth, does it?” Xander was rewarded with shuffling feet of nearby minions and a pinched expression on the master’s mouth.

“Nope, most minions aren’t worth the dust ya get when ya stake ‘em.” Spike agreed amiably.

“I sent Antonio for the money you left in my care Master Spike, I do hope I see you and your companion once she’s been turned.” The master gave them a strained smile and retreated to another room. Xander didn’t know whether to laugh at how uncomfortable she and Spike had made him or squirm in discomfort herself at the whole turning idea. Just because she was starting to think of Spike as sexy and maybe even a little fun to hang out with didn’t mean she wanted to go the whole eternal commitment route. Antonio quickly appeared with a briefcase and a set of keys.

“Buh-bye,” Xander waved to the minions as Spike hurried him toward the car. Once they had gotten on the road again, she turned to Spike. “Not as satisfying as staking them, but on an amusement scale of 1 to 10, I’d rank that a 7.” Spike continued driving, but Xander could see the smile.

“Ya annoyed the piss out of him, pet.”

“Yep, and you enjoyed it,” Xander shot back.

“That I did.”

“So, are we talking about the whole turning thing, because I really don’t think drinking blood and gore and murder goes with this outfit,” Xander couldn’t resist a nervous laugh.

“Can’t say I haven’t thought about it, but ya can never tell how the demon’ll take. Might end up with something that sounds like you; might end up with some simpering fool who doesn’t know how to string two sentences together.”

“So, we’re going for the non-vamped version, good choice. Less filling,” Xander realized that her humor wasn’t even working for herself, so she contented herself with staring out into the night as they drove through Paris. Yep, uneducated American, but even she knew where to find the Eiffel Tower.

As dawn neared, Spike pulled into a basement and parked the car, waiting impatiently as Xander crawled out of the car and tried to wake up. She wasn’t sure how long she’d slept, but she did know that her neck hurt like hell. Well, maybe not hell because that whole simile was a little hard to throw around once you knew someone who’d been to hell. A crampy neck really didn’t compare.

“Hurry up then,” Spike announced as he held open a heavy steel door in the side of the large public garage.

“Boy, you’re Mr. Cranky Vamp today,” Xander said as she turned to slide past the vampire and the three bags he now held.

“I’m hungry, so don’t press your luck,” Spike groused, and Xander decided that she really didn’t want to annoy the vampire, so she just followed the pushes that guided her through a series of service tunnels to another steel door. Spike unlocked that door and Xander went in to find a simple bed sitting and a single dresser in a concrete room.

“Now, do I have ta chain ya, or will ya just settle down and sleep?”

“No, no chaining necessary,” Xander held up her hands in surrender. “Steel door, concrete walls, I’m thinking I’m here to stay unless I develop some freakish mutant powers before you get back. Actually, I’ve had freakish mutant powers before and I still don’t think I would have gotten out of this room.”

“Right,” Spike said uncertainly. “Just get some sleep,” he ordered as he pulled the door shut and Xander was left in darkness. Cursing the vampire for not giving her a chance to ask for a bathroom or even find the bed before lights out, Xander finally groped her way to the bed and crawled in. The blanket smelled of dust, but considering that she hadn’t been able to lie down for about two days, give or take a day of jet lag, she didn’t really care.   She was also willing to blame that same lack of sleep for the strangely calm state she felt as she drifted off to sleep.

The smell of bacon threaded its way through her dreams, and her dream lover’s hand once more caressed her gently. Moaning softly, she turned over, and found herself falling to the concrete floor as she rolled off the bed. Spike leaned against the wall and smirked. She almost didn’t notice the direction of his gaze, but then with a shriek, she pulled down her skirt from where it had twisted around her waist. Now that she was awake, she could see a breakfast tray on the dresser, and she noticed a light switch that she really could have used the night before.

“Hurry up then, got chores to run the minute the sun goes down.”

“Spike, I know this is Europe and all, but I really think I need to bathe. It’s been a few days. A few hard days,” Xander said with a not-so-discrete sniff to her armpits.  She didn’t really expect him to respond; in fact, she couldn’t really say for certain why she brought up a subject that would give the vampire more verbal torment material.  As usual though, Spike surprised her.

“I’ll bring water,” Spike said, and before she could argue, the door had closed with vampiric speed.

“Shit,” she complained to the closed door. She walked over to the dresser and began to pick food off the plate, a piece of croissant here, a piece of bacon there. By the time Spike returned, she had eaten over half the plate and felt both bloated from having to pee and full. Bad combination. The door opened, and she could have blessed the vampire when she saw two buckets, one still steaming with hot water and the other empty.

“Okay, out. Gotta pee, like right now.” She grabbed the buckets and put them on the floor before pushing a surprised Spike out of the room.

“Oi, ya don’t…” he got to before she closed the door and squatted over the empty bucket, sighing in pleasure as she emptied out her bladder. And now the day’s comedy has begun she realized when she didn’t have anything to dry herself off with. Inconvenient damn girl parts he cursed to himself as his thighs started to tremble.

“Spike!” she shouted.

“Thought you wanted me out, pet. What? Ya inviting me in for the show now?” Spike opened the door and started laughing when he spotted her predicament. “Oi, ya have a problem then?”  And oh yes, this is the vampire Xander had learned to know and hate.

“I need toilet paper,” she pointed out, her thighs starting to shake.

“What ya got ta trade?” Spike asked as he reached into his duster and took out a large crumpled ball of the blessed stuff.

“Spike, please?”

“Evil, pet. ‘Please’ don’t generally work on the evil.”

“I promise not to throw the contents of this pail at you?” Xander offered with an innocent smile.  Hell would freeze over before she would give Spike a free show, not that she could stop him if he insisted, but she’d read those diaries Giles so carefully hid in the most obvious hiding place in the world.  Please, who really thought the old ‘on top of the bookcase’ trick worked?  After reading enough to trigger nightmares and require therapy for the foreseeable future, she wasn’t about to give Spike any confusing ‘just might find your lithe muscles and tight body slightly sexy’ signals. Nope, she was reserving all the confusion for herself; just call her greedy.

“Ya soddin’ well better not anyway. Ruin the leather and my hand and your bare butt are going to have a meetin’.”

“God, Spike, just give it here,” she demanded, and with a laugh, Spike tossed the paper so that it unraveled and turned into a streamer in the air.

“Okay, you can leave now,” she said as her legs began to burn.

“Or I can stay,” Spike said pleasantly as he leaned back against the wall and watched. Xander froze, caught between desperately wanting to finish and stand up and really not wanting to touch herself there with Spike in the room. Spike had kept his hands in the safe-to-moderately naughty zones the whole trip over without ever coping a true feel, but she still remembered that quick grope when he’d shown her how a woman’s body worked.

“Spike,” Xander tried to keep some patience, but her composure was weakening as fast as her leg muscles.  “Get out.”  She enunciated each word sharply and clearly.

“Make me,” Spike retorted with a grin, clearly enjoying the interaction.

“God you suck,” Xander swore as she tried to worm a hand under her dress to wipe herself without providing a peepshow.

“For the right people, luv, I can suck with the best,” Spike shot back with an eyebrow wiggle and a pursing of the lips that made Xander pause.  She continued to curse Spike in whispered tones as she wiped herself off and dropped the tissue into the bucket.  When she stood, she smoothed down the dress without trying to pull the panties back up, yes she felt vulnerable with nothing protecting her naughty bits, but it was better than hiking up her dress in front of the vampire.

“And I so want to say something, but I think I’ll just show enough self-preservation to keep my mouth shut,” Xander said as thoughts of Spike and Angel and sucking crossed her mind.

“That’s a new approach for you, innit?”

“Oh yeah, but kinda trying to avoid ending up vamp food.”

“I’m not goin’ ta eat ya, ninny.”  Spike leaned down and unzipped one of the bags and pulled out a light green dress.

“You’re doing horrible things to my psyche here,” Xander complained as she caught the dress as it came flying at her. 

“Better than doin’ horrible things ta your guts, so get dressed so we can leave.”  With that, Spike turned and left, the heavy lock sliding into place a second later.  She realized that she just had to trust Spike to not walk in unannounced, which was actually a lot less disturbing that realizing that she had to trust Spike not to eat her. Xander took the world’s fastest sponge bath and slipped into the new dress, wondering what the future would bring.

The future, it turned out, was even more bizarre than a date on the hell mouth, and considering her dating record, she considered that pretty dang bizarre.  But when Spike led her to a tall building and then introduced her to a real estate agent and explained that they’d be looking at a couple of possible homes, Xander was struck speechless.

“Ms. Blache, this is Xander; Xander, Ms. Blanche,” Spike announced as he lit a cigarette.

“Xander? An unusual name.” The real estate agent pronounced the name Zan-DARE, and she suddenly realized that her name did have a bit of a girly accent when said in a French accent. Of course everything sounded a little girly in French—romance language and all.

“Yeah, old Latin for ‘she who can’t keep her arse out a trouble’,” Spike offered with a wink, and Xander placed her elbow in Spike’s stomach hard enough to drop a man; however Spike wasn’t a man so he simply laughed.

“We are going to look at a beautiful place on the ninth floor,” the woman offered in her thick French accent, a sing-songy voice that reminded Xander of Pepe Le Peu, which was funny because when Buffy practiced French, Xander tended to think more of influenza patients hacking up phlegm.

With her heels clicking on the marble hallways, the woman showed them to an ornate elevator where they rode up in silence, Spike’s arm wrapped tightly around her waist, and Xander couldn’t have felt any more trapped if the vampire had put a chain around her neck because every time she shifted, that rock solid arm just tightened more until she finally sighed and allowed herself to lean into Spike.  Not like she had a lot of choice, really. 

The apartment tour went rather quickly, it was an apartment after all.  One bedroom with a fireplace, one living room with a fireplace, one raised dining room, a balcony, a hall closet, and a newly remodeled kitchen and bathroom that the agent raved about. 

“Well, pet.  What do ya think of the place?” Spike asked once the tour ended.

Okay, this was unexpected.

“Um, fine.  I guess,” she responded.  Hardwood floors, check; fireplaces, check; nice big closet with a solid door for Spike to lock her up, check.  Yep perfect place all around.  The only question was why the vamp was being so nice.  Well, nice for him anyway because the whole bathroom bucket incident, so not nice in a general sense, but still much nicer than she’d expected.

“Might go see a place out in the country.  That sound all right?”  Xander looked over at Spike incredulously.  He came closer and slipped an arm around her waist, giving her one of his patented confused expression when she didn’t answer, but that’s okay because his confusion couldn’t be greater than her own.  “Don’t ya want ta see it?  We can look at another place in the city if ya want.”

Okay, Xander had now officially achieved wiggins land.  If *she* liked?  If she *liked*?  Since when did the bleached menace asked what she *liked*?  She didn’t really want to endanger any potential witnesses to her imminent murder, so she smiled sweetly and put on her most casual tone of voice.

“I hear California’s pleasant this time of year—maybe a little place somewhere around L.A.”  Xander realized she had gone too far the minute she watched Spike’s face freeze over in a mask of neutrality.  Uh oh, major vamp hissy fit on the tarmac and ready to take off.  She found Spike’s anger disturbingly reassuring since it put her back on familiar territory.

“’Scuse us,” Spike nodded to the agent, and Xander felt herself pulled into that newly upgraded bathroom by her elbow.

“Bloody hell, Do ya have brain damage or are ya tryin’ ta get yourself killed?” Spike hissed from between elongated fangs the minute he had closed the door.

“Not trying, it just kinda comes natural,” Xander said as she backed away from the fully vamped out Spike.  Of course, in an apartment bathroom that got her all of 12 inches away and she thanked god for each inch.  Spike continued to stare at her furiously until she started to squirm.

“You’re mine now, pet.  This init gonna change so either ya stop this soddin’ nonsense and show some appreciation for that fact I haven’t ripped your guts out or you’re goin’ ta find out how bad a temper I ‘ave, Got it?”  Spike’s accent had thickened and his eyes gleamed a demonic yellow because, hey, demon.  Xander found herself without enough spit in her mouth to speak, so she nodded slowly.  Spike’s face dropped back into his human features.

“What in the bloody hell are you tryin’ ta prove?”

“Prove?” Xander thought about that for a minute because she really did know that aggravating Spike was stupid in a suicidal sort of way.  She finally took a deep breath and decided to go for honest, not that honesty ever worked for her, but she couldn’t come up with a convincing lie, so honesty it was.  “I’m just freaking out on the whole lack of freaking out here.  I’m being held captive by a homicidal vampire who has on more than one occasion shown an interest in having me dead, and I’m not freaking out, which is worth freaking out over.”

“Oi, never wanted ya dead, pet.”

“Really?” Xander asked disbelievingly.  “Okay, how about when I helped Buffy stop you from killing Angel?  Or what about a couple of days ago when you bashed my head in with a microscope.”

“Didn’t kill ya,” Spike complained.

“Okay, what about just now when you threatened to show me your temper?  Huh? What was that about?” Xander asked triumphantly and then briefly wondered what idiot pill she’d taken to try and convince Spike that he hated her.  Oh yeah, she’d definitely had one too many hits to the head in the last week. Or maybe it was some sort of progressive trauma since she really had an impressive record of unconsciousness over the past few years.

“Wouldn’t a really hurt ya, pet, but ya talked about leavin’ and I got a mite angry.” Spike shrugged.

“Why?” Xander looked at Spike, trying to understand the vampire’s motives, but Spike seemed just as confused as she was.  “Why do you care?”

“Dunno, just do,” Spike announced in a that’s-that tone of voice that clearly indicated that he considered the conversation over.

“Don’t you think that maybe something hell-mouthy is going on here?” Xander demanded, the long missing panic finally poking up its head.  Xander looked to Spike for some sort of sign that the vampire understood just how out of control everything was starting to spin.  Without saying a word, Spike pulled her into an embrace, and she could feel him rest his cheek against the top of her head.  Spike’s intimacy left her utterly defenseless.

“Please, Spike.  Please just let me go home,” she found herself begging, and oh wasn’t this just charming?  Cry in front of the vampire because that just proved her manliness.

“Pet, ya can ask me anythin’ ya want except that.” Xander felt a hand drawing comforting circles on her back, and that very fact she used the word comforting proved that she had lost her mind.  Mind lossage would explain a lot or maybe an alternate reality or maybe she was still unconscious and dreaming all this, and oh god why did she have to think of that.  If she was dreaming, that meant that somewhere down in her subconscious she wanted and created this world and getting drained would be less painful. She reached down and pinched herself, but nothing happened.

“Ya all right then?” Spike asked after a minute of just standing and holding her.

“No,” Xander replied in a nearly normal tone of voice.

“Good cause it’s about time ta get out there before that bint starts thinkin’ we’ve got ta shaggin’ in her shiny new bathroom.”

“And even less okay now.  Euuuwww.” Xander pushed herself out of Spike’s embrace and could tell from the amused expression that Spike had intended that as a taunt.

“As you Yanks say, ‘Don’t knock it ‘til ya tried it,’” Spike smirked.

“And the okayness levels just keep right on dropping,” Xander said with a shudder.

“Oi, 120 years of experience here.”

“Hey, not gay here,”

“One man,” Spike pointed to himself, “plus one woman,” Spike pointed to Xander, “does not make for gay sex.”  Spike continued after the space of a heartbeat, “Course, some still might consider it necrophilia.”

“And the okayness has reached new lows.  We are stopping there before that toilet is no longer new and shiny.”  Xander held up a hand as if to hold off any comeback, but Spike simply took that hand and wrapped his own around it before leading her out of the bathroom and back to the now suspicious agent.

Spike and the real estate agent traded several words, none of which made any sense to Xander, and then Xander found herself escorted back to the lobby and out to the car.

“So, are we going to see the other place?” Xander asked for lack of anything better to say.

“Yeah,” Spike answered, and Xander wondered if the vampire was thinking about what she had said about something hell mouthy affecting them.  It would certainly explain the lack of blood and death in her current relationship with Spike, and oh god, she had not just put the words relationship and Spike in the same sentence. Suddenly Spike looked over at her sharply, and Xander nearly passed out at the thought she’d said that out loud.  However, Spike quickly returned his attention to the road, which was good considering the speed they were going. 

Xander spent the rest of the trip staring at the countryside with the increasingly infrequent farmhouses.  They must have driven a good three hours at clearly illegal speeds before pulling through a heavy iron gate that looked like it was rusted permanently open and which was set in the middle of a heavy stone wall.  Suddenly outdoor lights came on, and Xander found herself throwing up an arm to keep from being blinded.

“You came, I was so worried you would not be able to make it tonight!” sang a voice that sounded like a replica of the agent they’d left in the city.  Xander squinted in the heavy outdoor lighting and realized that the woman was nearly a clone with the same tailored suit and heels.  “The place, it is a real bargain. The chateau has been remodeled with a new kitchen,” she explained in that Pepe voice as she ushered them into the house.  This tour took longer with the woman pointing out the authentic wood carvings and historical pillars which Xander couldn’t resist running her hand over, feeling the warm wood beneath her fingers.  The upstairs bedrooms had ceilings that tilted at odd angles, and almost every room had a fireplace. 

“I know several of the windows need fixing, and we have a handyman who can do that, this quick,” the saleslady snapped her fingers at how fast the boarded up windows could be replaced.

“Don’t bother, mate.  Like the dark,” Spike said casually as he stuck his head in another closet.

“Oh, but I’d love to see all those windows replaced, and this place streaming with sunlight,” Xander said, and Spike’s head reappeared from out of the closet, a pinched expression on his face until he saw Xander’s own small smile.

“Yeah, well windows lead ta dust, and you aren’t the best at keepin’ a place clean.  Wouldn’t want ya ta have more dust ta clean up.”

“Oh, I don’t mind a bit of dusting,” Xander continued, enjoying the agent’s confused expression.

“Ya never had the knack for it Buffy did,” Spike retorted.

“True, she loves dusting.  If she ever visits, I can see her dusting here,” Xander said, and this time she couldn’t even identify the feeling she felt creeping through her soul.

“Yeah, well, don’t want the bint dustin’ around here, so I think I’ll leave her off the invite list.”

“You know Buffy though, she tends to show up and do dusting even when she’s not invited.”

“Are ya sayin’ that ya don’t want her invited, pet?” Now Spike had left the closet all together and Xander saw the almost hopeful expression on his face.

“Okay, I would invite her given a chance, but I don’t think I want her dusting in my house,” Xander admitted, and cringed when she realized that she had claimed possession of the chateau.  Spike’s smirk made it clear he hadn’t missed the slip.  “If I ever get a house.  I’m not saying that this is a house I want or that I’m ready to set up house, and can we just go back to talking about dusting now, please.” Xander realized that she had just lost that round badly, but at least she wasn’t as confused as the agent who continued to stare with an expression that rivaled Giles’ when Buffy and Willow started talking boys. 

“So, is that a yes or a no to the windows?” the agent finally asked once she realized that her two strange clients had finished their argument over American houseguests with dusting fetishes.

“No.” Spike said definitively and then the tour continued.

Before long, Xander found herself outside leaning on a low wall and waiting as Spike and the woman talked business.

“Votre belle femme, she likes the place?” Xander heard the real estate agent ask Spike even as she leaned against the wall and looked at the perfectly straight lines of trees. She really wished she had actually paid attention in French class, but then she’d never thought she’d end up in France. School. Would she ever go to school again or would this be her life, isolated in some beautiful French home, and why wasn’t that sounding especially bad?

“Yeah, appears she does,” Spike agreed.

“So, shall it be the chateau or the apartment?”

“Laissez ma femme choisir,” Spike said in a perfect imitation of the woman’s accent. Xander looked over for some sign of Spike’s decision, but his expression remained neutral, a cigarette hanging from one hand as he watched the road as if expecting someone.

“So, which do you like, Madam?” the woman turned her attention to Xander who found that she had to really think about that one. She couldn’t restrain a bit of a giggle when she thought of how her real estate agent would react to her criteria. While other buyers might look at the bathrooms or the foundations, Xander was considering escape possibilities and long-term captivity. Okay, the apartment had greater opportunities for escape: toss a note off the balcony, talk to a neighbor through the door, set a fire and wait for the firemen to come. Okay, that last one might be a little dumb since she really didn’t want to burn to death, but still, possible escape lay right at her fingertips. However, the very chance to escape would make Spike more vigilant. When he left the apartment, he’d probably chain her up; she never get to see outside except through a window.

The chateau was isolated, far from any help, but that would probably mean her daily life would be freer. She could walk outside under the trees. She could explore and maybe build something or plant something or just do something although she did laugh at the thought of using a table saw in one of the full-length skirts Spike preferred her to wear.

“I like the chateau,” she announced, and Spike simply nodded.

“Your husband, he does like to spoil you, yes?” The woman gave her a little wink, and Xander’s brain stopped functioning at the word husband. No, no, no, no, no she silently chanted. She was supposed to grow up and be the husband who worked all day and came home to a house that was getting old and had breaking plumbing to a wife that resented that he didn’t make more money. That was the fate life set out for him when it made him a perfectly average, normal human boy. He wasn’t supposed to be the one to grow up and find a husband with enough money to buy a French chateau. Oh god, he was living Cordelia’s fantasy, well except for the demon significant other, that was pure Xander, not that Spike was a significant other and god she was just going to stop thinking.  Everything was just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Spike must have noticed the change, because he dropped his cigarette and quickly pulled Xander into an embrace.

“Pet, ya all right?”

“Fine.” Xander replied after she’d caught her breath and dealt with the incipient panic.

“Is she ill?” the woman asked with concern.

“Mêle-toi de tes affaires,” Spike replied quickly but without his usual snarl. The woman huffed her annoyance and walked away.

“Pet, let’s get you set down in the front room, then I’ll take care of the soddin’ paperwork. Let’s hope I can do this without breakin’ the bint’s neck.” Xander couldn’t help but be comforted by the return of her normal Spike, and wow, when threats of neck-breakage were comforting, she really needed to rethink her values.

Xander continued to question her values over the next three days in the hotel that had taken another two hours to reach.  She wasn’t sure, but she suspected that Spike had picked a hotel on the far side of Paris just so that she would see that the chateau had no neighbors within walking distance in either direction.  The hotel, on the other hand, bustled with life—tourists and college students and happy families gathering around the pool.  Xander saw this while being held firmly at Spike’s side.  The rest of the time she was chained in a large room with enough slack to easily get to the bathroom, television and bed. 

Xander spent most of her days not noticing the funny way Spike sang with his music when he woke up in the evening, doing head-banging moves as he walked from the couch to the bathroom.  And not enjoying the way he talked to himself when he was stuck on hold on the telephone, making up imaginary family trees for people who made him wait.  When she got to look at Giles’ book again, she resolved to look up what it meant to be the unclean offspring of an Ano-movic and a Senih'D.  And she certainly didn’t notice the way his jeans hung low on his hips when he got out of the bathroom, drying his hair with a rough rub of a towel.  And when she was alone, she tried hard not to think about how upset Giles would be if he could see her now. 

After three days, Spike simply woke, packed the bags and hustled her into the car for a two hour trip back to the chateau.  A chateau that Spike had found some way to get cleaned, landscaped, furnished, and stocked.  When he parked the car, he tossed her a bracelet with a red bauble handing from the center.

“Wow, that’s a romantic presentation.  With Cordie I at least dressed up and managed to give her the necklace without throwing it at her,” Xander complained as she caught the gold and red bauble.

“Not a present,” Spike said in a strangely distant voice.  “Put it on.”

“Okay,” Xander answered with her best ‘cater to the crazy vampire’ voice.  She latched the clasp closed and then let the red teardrop stone dangle so that the porch lights coming in through the car window reflected into bloody-stained rainbows.  She smiled.  “Nicer than the heart I gave Cordie,” she admitted as she watched the red lights flicker on the dash.  “Wait, why isn’t it a present?”

“Keeps track of where ya are.  Keep it on and ya can leave the house.  Ever catch ya takin’ it off and I’ll chain ya up.”  Spike’s voice had a strange emotionless quality that made Xander’s arm hairs stand up.

“Right, leash the human pet, huh?” she asked, and suddenly the dangling stone didn’t seem quite so pretty.  “Surprised you didn’t just give it to me as some sort of present, make up some story about local ghosts and call it a protection charm,” Xander realized that she actually would have preferred the lie because now every time she looked at it, the stone would remind her of her place in Spike’s life: hostage, leashed pet, lower life form.

“Didn’t want ta lie to ya, so I told the truth,” Spike opened his door and disappeared into the house before Xander could even process that statement.  She experienced something that almost felt like pride that Spike refused to lie to her, as if he liked her enough to not lie.  Of course, the bracelet was still a leash, but it annoyed Xander a whole lot less as she got out of the car and walked up the walk to her chateau.

“You cooked?” Xander asked, unwilling to accept the evidence in front of her eyes.  Pans strewn about, dirty butcher paper crumpled on the floor, stray noodles drying to the stovetop.  Their first night in the chateau, and Xander had already discovered a wardrobe full of old fashioned dresses, the Playstation II, and 200 cable channels.  Only after a couple of hours had Xander done looking for Spike.  She really hadn’t expected to find him in the kitchen.

“Not an idiot, I can follow directions with the best of ‘em,” Spike gestured toward an open cookbook. 

“Please tell me that’s a human cookbook and not some book of demon recipes using Faryl horn and chaos demon spleen.”

“Chaos demons don’t have spleens, ya eat their brains.”  Xander stopped and looked at Spike’s neutral expression and wished she could read the vampire’s mind.  Not just the demon brain thing, although she was looking that up in Giles’ books the minute she got hope, nope she wondered things like why Spike had fixed dinner in the first place.  For a vampire, he was acting a little idiotic, and yes, she had seen Spike in idiot-mode before like turning his back on Buffy in that church.  But cooking dinner for Xander the left over Slayerette?  Yep, this was high on the vamp idiot scale.


“Supposed ta be a delicacy, innit?”  Spike replied, and it took Xander a minute to realize that Spike had answered the question she asked out loud rather than the ones she’d had running through her mind.

“Oh…uh, yeah.  Delicacy,” she muttered as she came all the way into the kitchen to get the plates and silverware she assumed hid in one of the cupboards.  Fifty millions cabinets and drawers later she’d managed to set the small table in the kitchen.

“Ya aren’t comin’ down with one a those human viruses, are ya?  Don’t want a snotty, drippy human ‘round the house.”  Xander nearly laughed at how much Spike sounded like her mother, well except for the accent thing, and the man thing, and her mother had said shedding instead of snotty and drooling instead of dripping and dog instead of human, but other than that, they sounded just the same.  And suddenly Xander didn’t like where that train of thought was threatening to go.

“Nope, no viruses here,” Xander confirmed as she concentrated on straightening spoons on the table.

“Here,” Spike walked over and handed her a glass of red wine and Xander stared at it blankly.  “Ya have ta actually drink it for it ta relax you,” Spike pointed out after she had stared at the glass for some time.

“Oh yeah, I’ve seen this horror film,” Xander suddenly said as she looked up into Spike’s deceptively innocent eyes.  “You get me horribly drunk and then you chop off my body parts.”  Xander put the glass down on the table even as Spike walked over to drain the spaghetti.

“If I felt like choppin’ off body parts, I wouldn’t have ta get ya drunk.  Besides, that’s a waste of good blood.”  Spike poured a white sauce over the noodles and dumped shrimp on top before bringing the bowl to the table.  “Drink,” he ordered and she felt the glass pressed into her hand again, and this time she brought the glass to her lips.  One taste and she spluttered most of the wine over the counter she was facing.  After wiping up the mess, she tried again, and while she didn’t particularly like the taste, she did appreciate the fact that the wine meant that the rest of the world suddenly made more sense. 

“You got me drunk,” Xander accused Spike after dinner when they had gone into the family room.  She had tried to sit on a big overstuffed chair next to the television, but she ended up on the floor.

“Yeah, pet.  Mite easier than I expected, too.”  Spike sat on the couch watching with that sexy half-tilt to his head.  Oh no, not sexy.  That disturbing half-tilt; that fascinating half-tilt; that intriguing half tilt, and damn it that’s the wrong direction, Xander complained to her drunken brain: think vampire, blood, guts, gore.   Disgusting half-tilt she settled on before collapsing onto her back in giggles.

“What ya laughin’ about, pet?” Spike asked, and Xander sat up and smiled back at the vampire’s own smile.

“You’re not really disgusting,” Xander declared solemnly.  Spike froze.

“Have ta say, that’s not the best compliment I’ve ever had, but a chap takes what he can get,” he finally replied with a shrug.  Xander sat on the floor and watched Spike stand and stretch, his shirt rising up high enough to show a line of chiseled skin between the tight black jeans and the faded black t-shirt.

“Hey, no fair,” she shrieked.

“I’m evil, pet.  Don’t have ta be fair,” Spike instantly responded as he brought his arms down.  “What aren’t I bein’ fair about then?” he asked after a second.  For some reason, that sent Xander into such giggles that she lay back on the floor panting for air.

“Not fair with you having the sexy stomach,” Xander pointed to the offending midsection, and she could see Spike’s eyebrow twitch in amusement.  “You should have a big hairy stomach that hangs down over your jeans.” 

“And why’s that, pet?” Spike asked as he knelt at her side, and Xander allowed her finger tips to reach out and touch the t-shirt over his stomach.

“That way you really are disgusting, and then I don’t have to argue with myself about intriguing stuff.”

“Remind me not ta get ya drunk again; ya sound like bloody Dru.” Spike said as Xander felt strong hands slip under her body and lift her effortlessly.

“You luuuuuv Dru,” she announced.  “Spike and Dru sittin’ in a tree K-I-L-L-I-N-G.  First comes love then comes...something….then comes something else that rhymes with something,” Xander sang happily.  She actually liked the sound of her new voice, which was a nice change from the way she used to sound when she sang along with country songs on the radio.

Spike was strangely silent as he climbed the staircase with Xander in his arms.  Spike kicked open the door to Xander’s room, and Xander found herself giggling at the sight they must have posed.  The blonde rebel carrying the dark-haired damsel in distress, not that she couldn’t take care of herself.  Because hey, when Buffy was all flu girl, she had punched Angelus.  She’d do it again to because she wasn’t some giggling girl from the front of one of those books Willow read and then hid in the bottom of her backpack where she thought no one looked.

“I did, I punched Angelus,” she said again, or maybe said the first time, she wasn’t sure.

“Right, pet,” Spike agreed, but Xander could hear the quiet amusement.

“I did.  I punched him and stuck a cross in his face when he was going to eat Buffy.”  Xander lost track of up and down as Spike dropped her on the bed and she bounced a bit.

“Really?  That must have been fun, sorry I missed it,” Spike said as he started pulling her shoes off.  But Xander wasn’t done.  Everyone treated her like she was the weak one of the group, and she wasn’t.  Okay, maybe she was weaker that Buffy because of the whole Slayer thing, and Giles might have something on her what with the training and the magics, but she could still beat Willow arm wrestling, maybe, she thought as she looked at her now much smaller arm. 

“That Halloween, I protected Buffy from all the crazy little sugared up children….Demon-children….Children who were turned into demons.” And suddenly talking seemed so much more difficult.

“I remember that.  Took a whole lot of my minions ta hold you and Angel,” Spike mused, and Xander smiled at the fact that Spike had talked about her and Angel as if they both posed the same threat. 

“Yep, and I stopped all the crazy demon eggs.  And I broke into the army base and stole the rocket launcher and I fought vampires and I faced down Angelus, and I went undercover and went all fishy—not smelling fishy, like fishy fishy fish type demon fish.”  Xander trailed off weakly as she suddenly realized that she was naked.

“Heya,” she screeched pulled the sheets up over her, but Spike simply cocked an eyebrow and lay down on top of the sheet so that he leaned against her side.

“What’s wrong, pet?” Spike asked.

“I’m not the weak one,” Xander continued her previous conversation now that she had covered all her bits.  “I may have, you know needed help with the preying mantis lady, but she kicked Buffy’s ass too, and with the mummy girl, I stopped her from hurting Willow.”

“Don’t doubt it,” Spike said as he let his fingers run through her hair, and suddenly Xander had trouble remembering what she had been so upset about.

“You don’t think I’m weak?” she asked, confused.

“Nope.  If ya were weak, I’d eat ya and get it over with.  Ya don’t bloody back down for anyone, got brass balls on ya, even if ya don’t have balls anymore.”  Xander knew that should probably be an insult, but for the life of her she couldn’t figure out how.  It sounded like a compliment to her, and she smiled up at Spike happily.

“Buffy tries to send me home,” she sighed.

“Buffy’s a bloody idjit.  Girl doesn’t know good help when she sees it.  I remember how angry Peaches got when Dru wanted to turn ya, he raved about how he wouldn’t have another runt in the house, but I’ll tell ya a secret pet,” Spike leaned down and whispered in Xander’s ear so that she could feel his breath moving through her hair like a tiny breeze.  “Angelus didn’t want ya as competition.”

“Really?” Xander closed her eyes at the thought of Angelus being afraid of her, of course closing her eyes also helped reduce the spinning in the room. 

“Yep.  He thought ya might take Dru from him seein’ as how she could sense your strength.”  Xander sighed and arched into the gentle touches at her waist, pressing up into Spike’s caress even as Spike’s hand slid farther south.

“Was just the spell,” Xander mumbled, suddenly feeling so very right as her skin came alive under Spike’s touch.  Spike’s hand now moved up until it rested over one of her breasts, kneading lightly before pinching the nipple so that Xander gasped.

“Nope.  Spell made Dru notice ya, but even after she told Peaches how you’d make a beautiful vampire.”  Xander realized that her skin and Spike’s skin had met, and she opened her eyes to find Spike slipped in the covers beside her.  She struggled to capture an unpleasant thought that danced at the edge of her awareness, but she closed her eyes in pleasure when Spike pressed up against her, his leg slipping between hers and pressing up until she gasped with pleasure and grabbed at the vampire.

“Peaches finally forbid her ta turn ya,” Spike whispered, and Xander felt talented fingers reach down and press into that spot that made her writhe and buck until she gasped as wave after wave of pleasure crashed into her.  “Told her he’d stake ya if you turned up a fledge on his doorstep,” Spike muttered as fingers slipped inside and pressed against the sensitive walls.  Xander nearly wailed when Spike then began to nibble and suck at her neck, and for one brief moment she dully considered that vampire and neck were not a good combination, but then she lost that train of though as a mouth engulfed her right nipple, sucking and gently biting even as the invading fingers pressed harder.  Xander felt as if she were having one weak orgasm after another as Spike’s talented hands and mouth moved from one part of her to another. 

“Demons appreciate strength.  It’s why Dru wanted ya, and it’s why I want ya,” Spike promised as he moved so that he now perched onto of Xander.  Xander tried to figure out why Spike had stopped, but then she felt something huge press into her and she gasped at the intrusion, but Spike continued entering until Xander couldn’t take the pressure and suddenly she felt something break like a balloon and the pressure was gone, replaced with a sharp pain.

“You broke me,” Xander slurred her complaint.

“Nope, you’re all right, pet,” Spike said and then Xander could feel him pulling out.  She put her hand down to check to see what he’d broken when he slammed in again, and suddenly she decided that if that’s what broken felt like, she was going to break some more stuff.  Spike thrust again, and Xander nearly lost her breath as she reached up to grab Spike’s shoulders, pulling herself up towards him, and he drove in again and again.  Spike shifted to one side, one of his arms disappearing even as he continued to ram in harder and harder as Xander gasped and rode sensations of pleasure and pain that made the rest of the world disappear in a haze.  Then, even as Spike thrust, she could feel his fingers at that spot which had become her favorite body part, and she bucked up off the bed, nearly screaming as she could feel her orgasm run down her spine like fire.  Spike thrust a couple more times and then she could feel the vampire come inside her, a strange feeling but not unpleasant.  Not unpleasant at all.

“Spike.” Xander moaned.

“Shhh, go ta sleep, pet,” Spike whispered in her ear, and suddenly Xander couldn’t think of doing anything else in the world.

Xander woke feeling strangely lethargic, as if she had run some marathon the previous evening.  Only once she stretched and rolled over did she realize that she was naked, and naked led to thoughts of sex, and sex thoughts led her straight to Spike and from there it was a short trip down into guilt and shame.  She was a Scoobie, what the hell was she doing sleeping with a vampire?  Well, okay, Buffy had done it too, but gee, look how well that had turned out.  Groaning from the headache and wincing at her own guilt, she got up and wandered into the bathroom where she started a bath in the large claw-foot bathtub.  Seeing how slowly the bath was filling, she left the room in search of the vampire, hoping to get the screaming and hitting portion of the afternoon started. 

She wandered through the kitchen, which Spike must have cleaned up because the table had been cleared and the dishes sat submerged in dirty chunky grey water.  Xander’s already queasy stomach nearly revolted at the sight and she snagged a Seven-Up out of the refrigerator before searching the rest of the house.  The family room with its electronic toys sat empty.  The front room with its large fireplace and formal furniture sat empty.  The downstairs bedroom with the boarded up windows, empty.  The downstairs bathroom, empty.  The two upstairs spare bedrooms, loft and study, all empty.  Xander finally gave up and went back to her bath to soak out the aches and wait out the headache. 

Her bedroom and bathroom had boarded up windows, and the rough planks nailed across the inside walls had been replaced with some sort of heavy plastic material that allowed very little light in, but since her bathroom faced west, she watched the barely visible sun, appearing like a slowly sinking nightlight in the orangish plastic material.  When the sun was hovering above the horizon, she drained the water, slipped into a long dress since she didn’t have anything else to wear, and went looking again.  She knew from being around Angel that vampires usually woke shortly before the sun went down, so she knew Spike was somewhere, especially since his car still sat outside in the drive.  She fingered her bracelet, considering taking it off just to force Spike out of hiding, but she also knew Spike kept his word, and she really didn’t want to end up chained in her bedroom.

Instead, she started walking around the house calling for Spike, only she didn’t use the name Spike.  She called out things like “bleached menace” and “hyperactive twit” and “loser boy” and “second choice Spikey.”  Strangely, the vamp didn’t respond.

Eventually, she gave up and settled in front of the Playstation II to wait.  She had just managed to save the nuclear plant from exploding when she felt cool fingers run through her hair.

“Gah,” she yelped as she threw herself forward and practically threw the controller.

“Oi, watch the toys, pets, they break.”

“You….you,” Xander couldn’t even form the words, but Spike’s confused expression somehow made her even angrier.

“Get away from me,” Xander ordered hoarsely, all jokes suddenly lost in the face of her anger.

“Ya didn’t seem ta mind my company last night,” Spike pointed out with a wiggle of his eyebrow.

“That so does not count, I was drunk,” Xander nearly shouted as she jumped up from the floor.  She suddenly didn’t want to have to look up at him. “And it’s just really wrong of you to get me drunk on the first…oh god I don’t even have a word to fill in the blank. Date, fuck, shag, make-out session.” She stopped before the word ‘rape’ came out of her mouth because even saying it made her feel dirty. “What the hell *did* we have anyway?” Xander could feel the babble boiling up like some out of control teakettle about to boil over.

“Shhh, pet,” Spike reached out and pulled her into his arms. “Not like that,” the vampire promised, and cool hands smoothed the hair out of her face before tickling along her scalp.  Xander struggled to push away, bracing her arms against the vampire’s chest and pushing, but she didn’t have the strength to extricate herself and she eventually gave up once she realized that she was only wearing herself out.  She’d wait for a better chance, she thought as she looked around at all the wood furniture.

“Um, I was there, okay, I wasn’t *all* there, but I was enough there to know that’s how it went.” Xander stopped abruptly concerned about just how drunk she’d been, and just what kind of fantasies had been playing through her mind lately. “Unless that’s not how it went. Oh god, please don’t tell me that I imagined all that because I don’t have enough money to pay for the therapy it would take to get over that one.” Fear and embarrassment overtook her anger as suddenly as Principal Snyder could suck the fun out a field trip.

“Made love ta ya,” Spike agreed quietly in a voice Xander only knew Spike to use with Drusilla.

“Oh god, I’ve slipped off the candy wagon, haven’t I?” Spike only gave her a confused look and continued with the gentle rocking and shushing sounds. “You’re using your soothe the crazy Drusilla voice on me,” Xander nearly wailed.

“Oi, tryin’ ta keep you from goin’ nutters. Didn’t think ya’d get quite so upset.”

“You got me drunk,” Xander wailed.  “You got me drunk and took advantage of me.”

“Yeah, didn’t want your first time ta hurt. Afraid if it did, I wouldn’t get a second.”

“But you didn’t even ask what *I* wanted.”

“I could smell it, couldn’t I? You’d walk around with a soddin’ cloud of pheromones followin’ ya like some bloody Disney cartoon.” Xander stopped and thought about that. Had she given permission in a vampirey sort of way? If another human had made that assumption, she would have called it rape, but Spike wasn’t human and he didn’t have human senses and she really had been seriously lusting after that body of his. A thought came to her.

“No fair. Just because I smell lusty doesn’t mean I lust after you,” Xander snapped, and the arms encircling her suddenly disappeared as Spike sat back and made eye contact. Xander could see the swirls of gold in those blue eyes. She saw the hurt, and realized that her words actually meant something to the vampire, but no one ever really listened to her, part of her mind protested. She stumbled, unsure what to say to erase that hurt expression that just didn’t look right on Spike. “I mean, I might just find apple trees stimulating. In the past, I’ve been know to get turned on by linoleum. There was even this museum once, and they had this display of pots that I found really exciting,” Xander babbled, and she could see the gold fading out of Spike’s eyes only to be replaced by an amused smirk.

“So, where’s this tree I have to cut down in the name of protectin’ my honor?”

“Now I don’t want you chopping down every tree I have feelings for,” Xander returned, her fear and anger replaced as suddenly as it had come up as she crossed her arms in mock-rage. “I won’t have you turning every tree I like into firewood.”

“I’d bloody turn every tree in France ta firewood if that’s what it takes ta keep your eye from wanderin’,” Spike returned.

“Well that’ll make for some really shitty scenery. I thought we bought this place for the trees.”

“Don’t bloody care where I live, never have. But when you picked this place, I thought your relationship with those trees was purely platonic. Won’t have ya cheatin’ on me with soddin’ fruit,” Spike said with such a straight face that she could hardly believe the vampire’s control. She could feel her own lips twitch, and she finally lost it, laughing so hard she nearly fell off the settee and Spike had to catch her.

“You’re insane,” Xander accused the vampire.

“You’re the one who brought up trees,” Spike pointed out reasonably. The vampire was silent for a long time and then he said quietly, “Wait here a couple minutes, right pet?”

“Sure,” Xander agreed uncertainly. Spike’s mood had changed so quickly that Xander wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it’s not like her emotions were doing any better. She sat in the front room, watching the fire slowly die as she waited impatiently. Before long, Spike reappeared, stripped to the waist, and Xander was not noticing the way one muscle curved into another, his chest a virtual sculpture in pale flesh. Nope not noticing. And not remembering, either. Not remembering how it felt to trace those muscles with her fingers or feel a 120 year old vampire tremble with need for her. Nope, she followed Spike upstairs to one of the unused bedrooms without thinking about any of that.

Spike opened the door and stepped aside for her to go first. When she saw the furnishings, she could feel her heart rate accelerate, her stomach knot, and tears begin to form. The large bed had been pushed up against a stone support column, and chains wrapped around the column with the manacles lying near the pillow. More chains lay near the foot of the bed, the long connecting chain looped under the end of the bed frame. Xander began to tremble, and wished that she *was* drunk. Maybe Spike would still be willing to go get some of that wine, she thought.

“Shhh, it’s alright pet,” Spike embraced her from behind.

“You don’t have to…” Xander lost her voice. “I won’t fight, I promise,” she whispered.

“No, pet, they’re not for you. I never meant ta scare ya last night. I’ve been with Dru so long sometimes I forget you’re human.” Xander looked over her shoulder, and Spike stood there in his human face, his regret and concern openly showing. “You need ta feel safe, so those are for me,” Spike said, and she looked down to see a key pressed into her hand.

“Just don’t lose it. Dru did that once, and it took the bloody minions days ta file through the chains.” Xander stood speechless as Spike went over, placed the lower chains on the floor, and then lay down to fasten the upper manacles around his wrists. The chain was short enough that Spike couldn’t even sit up, so he lay helpless on the bed in just his jeans. Xander closed her fist around the key and wondered if the vampire had lost his mind. She could take the key and walk away. She could go break a table leg and stake him. She could find his cell phone and call Buffy. Xander looked into Spike’s carefully neutral expression and suddenly she understood. He gave her this power because it was the only way for the vampire to know whether he could truly trust her, trust her not to leave him. It showed how much the vampire wanted to trust her.  Most importantly, it forced her to make a decision she wasn’t sure she wanted to make. She’d lost her desire to stake him the minute he lay down on the bed and she realized that he really hadn’t meant to hurt her and really wanted to put things right, but she did know what options that left her.

Xander shivered slightly at the sight of Spike laid out on the bed, and part of her wanted to go over and unlock the chains even as another part wanted to test Spike’s resolve. Buffy never really trusted her. How many times had Buffy told her to stay behind, which made her feel like the girliest man on the planet; of course she now actually was the girliest man on the planet, but Buffy had been shutting her out back when it still mattered to her.

She’d known Willow forever, but she ruined that with her male libido, and she knew they would never be the same. They’d be friends and love each other, but they’d never have the sort of childlike unconditional trust they used to have. Angel had called her a child more than once, and Giles’s heavy sighs and rolled eyes certainly implied the same thing. None of them truly trusted her, and now this vampire had put himself under her control. Xander put the key on the tall dresser and started walking toward the bed.

“Wow, for a master vampire your survival instincts aren’t the best,” Xander teased, but Spike didn’t answer, his expression still carefully neutral. She walked over to the bed and traced a finger down the center of Spike’s chest, feeling the muscles twitch under her hand.

“You do know that I have no idea what I’m doing,” Xander felt a need to point out as she settled on the edge of the bed, close enough that the silky fabric of her dress rubbed against Spike’s leg.

“You used ta have manly bits yourself; you know what ta do with them,” Spike said quietly. Xander now ran her hand up and down Spike’s chest, wondering what it would take to make the vampire lose control.  She allowed a single finger tip to trace the length of one chest muscle up to the shoulder, where she then traced it up Spike’s arm, and still he lay there.  Xander could feel the warmth between her own legs now as she considered a few possibilities.  Shifting so that she knelt on the bed, she began to run a fingernail over the puckered nipple that already stood up, and then, without warning, she pinched the tender flesh, and she could feel Spike struggle to control himself as his stomach muscles tensed. 

She lowered herself to now slowly lick at the abused flesh, and Spike rewarded her by beginning to pant unneeded oxygen.  While sucking on one nipple, she used her hand to pinch and pull at the other right before biting down gently, and a stronger jerk throughout Spike’s body told her she was on the right path.  Sitting up, she looked down at her captive with his eyes closed and his fingers curling into fists.

“Show me your real face,” she softly ordered, and Spike’s eyes came open.

“Pet, ya don’t really—”

“Show me,” she demanded more firmly this time, and Spike shivered once before his face transformed into the ridges and angles of his demon features.

“Could you get free if you really needed to?” she asked curiously, and Spike tilted his head a minute before answering.

“No, can’t.”

“Try,” Xander said as she shifted so that she now straddled Spike’s hips and looked down at him.  He lay still for a minute before acquiescing and starting to struggle.  He pulled against the chains until his muscles stood out in thick cords and the whole bed creaked in protest, but the chains held.  He switched to jerking the chains so hard that a stone chip flew off and hit the wall, but he only succeeded in making a trickle of blood appear on his hand.

“Stop,” Xander said quickly, and Spike instantly stilled as Xander reached up and ran her finger through the blood on his hand.  “You hurt yourself,” she said, surprised and a little horrified that Spike had taken it so far.

“Nothin’ serious, pet.  Vampire here.”  Spike stopped when Xander brought her finger up to his mouth.  He opened and she slipped the bloody finger in and enjoyed the sensation of his tongue running down the length of her finger even as he sucked on the digit.  Xander curled her finger until she felt the sharp edge of his fang, and then she pulled, allowing the fang to cut her finger open, and the responding groan from the vampire told her that she’d guessed right.  Spike began to struggle again, but this time his body writhed and twisted in pleasure even as he sucked, and Xander had to admit that she’d never before had such a reaction to a simple cut.  She could feel him pulling the blood, and she found herself grinding down on his body. 

When he finally stopped, she slipped the finger out and realized that she’d been grinding herself down onto a fully erect Spike who still had his erection trapped in his jeans.  Xander flinched at the unintended pain she’d caused.

“God, Spike, I’m sorry,” she slid down to straddle his knees before reaching to undo his jeans.

“Bloody hell, pet.  Nothin’ ta be sorry about, I’m havin’ a lovely time here.” Spike sighed with another tug at the chains.

“I’d be ready for a hospital visit by now,” Xander said as she undid the button and then froze, realizing that if she went any farther she couldn’t blame it on the vampire.  This really was her last chance to back out with any kind of dignity.

“Vampires are a little tougher than humans, takes a little more ta make them feel,” Spike said, and Xander looked up to Spike’s face which looked blissfully happy even with the demon features.  She left his jeans fastened as she moved up to straddle his waist again.

“And what do you feel?” she asked as she let her weight down on his trapped erection.  Hey, he’d all but invited her, so she wasn’t going to feel guilty about his squirming moans…much.

“Feelin’ a bit randy,” Spike said breathlessly as Xander shifted, rubbing herself up and down on the jeans and the trapped erection beneath the zipper.

“What are you feeling about this, about us?” Xander bend over so that her hands were on either side of Spike’s face as she continued to wriggle and grind herself down onto him, a sensation that she was enjoying immensely.  Spike didn’t seem to mind much either if she was reading his expression right.

“Bloody hell, not a human, don’t have human words ta explain it,” he finally gasped out as she pushed down particularly hard.

“Then explain in vampire terms.” Xander could see the hesitation and fear appear in Spike’s eyes at that, and she leaned down to kiss him on the lips lightly.  “I’m bright enough to translate, so trust me to understand,” she whispered against his lips.  She then went to work on his neck, nibbling at the soft skin where neck and shoulder meet even as she shifted her knees to the inside of Spike’s legs so that he was forced to spread his legs and allow her to rest her weight on his crotch.  He remained silent.  She had stopped moving, but she could feel Spike thrust upward, crushing himself against her body.  She slipped a hand down to his waist and whispered “stop” in his ear.  He stilled although she could still feel his muscles quiver.  She lay between his legs, softly nipping his skin for several minutes before she could feel him take a deep breath in preparation for talking.

“You’re strong.  I want ta be part of that strength, and I want ta have your strength for my own.  I want ta have ya, possess ya, make sure no one else ever touches ya and destroy anythin’ that comes near ya.  I want ta taste ya and taste myself in ya and know that everyone else can see and smell me on ya.”  Xander thought about that for a moment, lying still on her captive vampire.

“Do you want to turn me?” Xander knew that she could never take that risk; she would never become a monster that Buffy would have to track down, too many bad memories down that path.

“Never,” Spike said almost instantly.  That answer surprised Xander, she thought she’d have to convince Spike, but he sounded almost adamant about not turning her.

“Why not?”

“Turned someone else once; wanted them ta be strong and healthy forever, and I just bollocked that up.”  Xander propped herself up on one elbow and she saw that Spike had dropped back into human features, the pain so clear on his face that she couldn’t imagine what would have caused him such agony.

“What happened?”  Spike turned away from her, staring at the far wall, and Xander reached out to pull his gaze back to hers.  “I won’t tell anyone; I won’t go running to Buffy or Angel, I promise,” she looked into Spike’s blue eyes and could see as his resolve crumbled.

“My mum,” he finally whispered.  “I turned my mum to save her, and she called me worthless, said she wanted ta get rid of me.”  Spike jerked his head away from her hand and returned to staring at the wall.  “Dru thought the same or she wouldn’t a turned ta every demon except me the minute she was strong enough to.”

“They’re both insane,” Xander whispered as she ran her fingers through the soft blonde hair, he obviously hadn’t had time to make his namesake spikes yet.  “You’re the one who survived your battles with Buffy, Angel didn’t and no chaos demon would.  You’re the one who took out the almighty Anointed One.  You’re the one who killed two slayers, not that I’m condoning that because in general, killing slayers is on my ‘no’ list.” Xander said with a bit of a shiver.  Spike turned to look at her, and Xander could see the raw hope and need.  “You’re the one that had Buffy scared the minute you came to town.  You’re the one that made Angel go all twitchy, warning Buffy that you were this big bad vamp who never gave up on what he wanted.”

“He said that?” Spike suddenly interrupted.


“Wanker,” Spike responded, but Xander could see the smile.

“What happened to your real face?” Xander asked, tracing her finger across Spike’s forehead, and the demon features appeared without delay.  Xander traced the ridges and ran her thumb over the heavy brows as she cupped his cheek.  “You’re the strong one who controls the demon and doesn’t have to destroy everything the way most vampires do,” Xander said, and she realized that she meant it.  When her friends found her, and she knew they eventually would, she would just have to make them see.  She slid down and finished unzipping Spike’s jeans before pulling them off. Big surprise, the vampire didn’t wear underwear.  Xander tossed the clothes aside and took the fully erect cock in her hand.  The skin around the member surprised her, but then every male body she’d ever seen in the showers had been circumcised, so she explored the differences knowing full well that she was torturing the vampire below her who groaned and shivered.

She looked down and wondered whether the vampire was enjoying this because of or in spite of the chains, and an evil thought crossed her mind.  She got up from the bed only then realizing that she had remained fully dressed while Spike lay on the bed naked and chained.  Kinky.  She couldn’t even imagine Buffy’s face if the slayer found them now.  Well, actually she could, and it made her smile just a little. 

“Oi, where ya goin’?” Spike complained from the bed, but he really couldn’t do much else, so Xander didn’t answer.  She walked to the foot of the bed and picked up on end of the shackles.  When she stood up, she could see Spike’s primitive lust as she closed one end around the vampire’s ankle.  Pulling the other end until he was fairly well immobilized but still had some wiggle room; she looped the chain around the heavy iron bed frame before bringing up the other end and locking it around his other ankle.  She had expected protests or taunts, but Spike just lay there panting, so she backed off and started undressing, slowly. 

“Bloody hell,” the vampire softly cursed before he started twisting against the chains, groaning loudly as she allowed the dress to fall to the ground and stepped out of it.  Turning her back, she reached around and unhooked her bra, dropping it and her panties before turning back around and giving Spike a nice long look.  Now she circled the bed and Spike helplessly jerked against the chains, his grunts becoming more and more animalistic.  Xander realized that she was teasing Spike somewhat beyond what she intended, but she wasn’t really sure what to do. 

Walking over to the bed, she knelt on the edge, running her hands up and down Spike’s legs before taking a deep breath and straddling the vampire.  She reached down, and took his cock in hand, guiding it as she lowered her weight, and now Spike did buck up, and Xander balanced herself with her knees as Spike thrust up like a bucking horse, throwing her up into the air with strength that a human could never manage.  She thrust back happily, feeling her own orgasm start. 

Remembering the previous evening, she reached down and used her hand to press into that happy spot, and she could feel the orgasm rage through her as she spasmed over and over, the contractions making Spike’s cock feel even larger as it pistoned into her.  She collapsed onto Spike’s chest and suddenly two points of fire descended into her neck, and she pushed down into the feeling before her brain could process the sensation.  She could feel Spike come in her and the burning at her neck stopped as she felt him licking her neck.  Her brain slowly processed the fact that he had bit her, and she really couldn’t come up with a reason to care as she slipped off and to the side where she curled up with an arm over Spike’s chest.

“Plannin’ on lettin' me up soon, pet?” Spike finally asked.

“Nope,” Xander said as she enjoyed the feeling of trust as Spike relaxed against the chains.

They lay there for probably an hour, silently enjoying each other’s company, or at least Xander enjoyed it.  Spike didn’t really have a choice.  Eventually Xander stretched and got up, leaving Spike chained to the bed.  She went to her own room and dressed before coming back and retrieving the key.  Sitting on the edge of the bed, she unlocked Spike’s wrists and he sat up and arched his back and stretched.  Xander walked around to the foot of the bed and unlocked Spike’s ankles, still not sure what to expect.  Spike retrieved the jeans from the corner and came back to take her hand in his own before he headed downstairs.

Xander followed silently, really not sure what to say after such an intense evening.  She had all sorts of conversation starters after getting shot down; *that* she had experience with.  Nothing in her past gave her any clue about how to start a conversation after actually having sex, and kinky sex too.  In the kitchen, Spike knelt down and reached to the back of a shelf, and he reappeared with a large red stone.  Spike reached out for her hand, and Xander held it out as Spike removed the bracelet.  Letting the teardrop shaped dangle drop into the perfectly shaped hole on the large paperweight sized stone, Spike pushed the object toward her.  Xander reached out and took it, realizing that this was the other half of Spike’s tracking device.

“Now it’s a present,” Spike said. 

Xander lifted the bracelet out and picked up the tracking stone, watching a small glow in the large stone move so that it always pointed toward the bracelet.  Walking out the back step, Xander put the gem down on the step and picked up a second rock.  Spike stood in the doorway and watched as Xander brought the rock down and shattered the stone.  Still silent, Xander walked back into the kitchen and wordlessly picked up the bracelet.  She hadn’t struggled with the clasp for more than two seconds before cool fingers took over and fastened the bracelet around her wrist.  She sighed in happiness, knowing to enjoy the moment because any time her life went this well, disaster was around the corner, and in this case disaster meant Buffy.  She pushed that realization to the back of her mind and just enjoyed the moment.


Xander hung her dresses by their hems on the line.  Yes, she had a dryer in the basement, but she liked being outside in the late afternoon sun, and Spike had shown her his secret lair in the basement, so she really didn’t want to wake him.  This close to sundown he’d wake easily, and the sound of the dryer thumping under a load of laundry would do it.  Not that Xander minded waking Spike.  Spike usually woke up horny as hell, and she was quickly learning to enjoy his lustiness. 

Often, he seduced her with soft kisses, but when she would wrap her legs around him and bite his neck, he’d respond with a good ravishing, and all she had to do was look toward the spare bedroom, and Spike would happily submit, allowing himself to be chained while she played in any number of ways that it embarrassed her to even think about, yet in that room all modesty was exiled to some far corner of her mind.  Yep, awake Spike was a good thing, and she was now trying to remember why she didn’t want to wake him.

A car rumbled up the road, and Xander ignored it, one or two cars a day passed on their remote road, so she continued to hang dresses feeling very French as she stood behind her chateau with her laundry basket of French dresses.  Who knows, maybe she’d even learn French.  She didn’t notice that the car had pulled up their drive until she heard a car door slam and a voice call in French.

“M'excuser, pouvoir je parle avec vous un moment, s'il vous plait,” stumbled an awkward voice that sounded strangely familiar.  Xander looked around the edge of her hanging clothes, and sure enough Giles, Buffy and Willow stood next to the car.  She smiled as she took a step forward, but their blank expressions reminded her that things had changed, changed more than the three of them might realize.  She froze, but then Willow’s face brightened, and she ran forward so that Xander found herself being crushed by Willow huggage.

“Xander!” Willow sang, and over Willow’s shoulder, she could see Buffy’s eyes go wide, and Giles snatch the glasses off his face to start polishing them as he suddenly examined the ground.

“Oh thank goddess, we looked everywhere and finally Giles did this location spell, and he promised to show me how to do one, but he’s still a little angry about the whole turning you into a girl, and you aren’t still angry about that, are you?” Willow said as she let go and took a step back even as she curled up her nose in embarrassment.

“No problem, been emasculated any number of times, so we’ll just put it in that column,” Xander replied, and now Buffy stepped up. 

“Look at you,” Buffy said with a small tug to the newly hung laundry.  “Have to admit, thought we’d find you hanging in a basement somewhere.” Xander could hear the confusion, the suspicion in her voice, but Xander really didn’t have words to ease her suspicions since she really did have quite a bit of freedom, certainly enough to go get a stake off one of the apple trees and stop Spike, but she hadn’t chosen to do that.  She wouldn’t choose to do that.

Giles stepped up next, and he put up a hand as if to pat Xander on the shoulder when an angry voice from the shadows of the house made his hand freeze.

“Touche la et tu crêves,” Spike snarled.  “Ya need a translation on that?”

“No, that’s quite all right.  I understand French quite well even if I am a little rusty speaking it.”  Giles pulled his hand back and began polishing his glasses until Xander wondered if it was possible to actually erode glass away with excessive polishing.  Buffy for her part took the predictable route and stepped between Spike and the group, despite the fact that the sunlight was an impenetrable barrier for the vampire.

“Buffy,” Xander began as she stepped forward, and then words failed her.  She stepped forward so that she stood between Spike and Buffy.  “Buffy things have happened that I probably need to explain before you start dusting—in the vamp dusting sense that is since I’m not really great with housework and I really could use help with the dusting dusting part of it.”

“Xander, we are well aware of your feelings, and the spell’s affect on your feelings.  The spell book Willow so unwisely chose to use mislabeled several significant spells, including the one she cast.  Her spell had certain side-effects.”  Spike started to growl, and Xander rushed in to defend the vampire and her feelings for him.

“This isn’t about the spell. I didn’t wake up from that spell and go ‘poof’ I’m in love with Spike,” Xander pointed out as she backed up toward the house and Spike.  Buffy moved forward, but Giles put out a hand to stop her.  Willow just looked guilty.

“No, ya woke up mouthy and bitchy.” Spike said as he stood with his arms crossed glaring at Buffy.  For a moment, Xander was surprised, but then she recognized the “Big Bad” persona that Spike had always put on in front of the gang, the persona that she herself had thought *was* Spike until she had gotten to know him better.

“And that would be different from now…how?” Xander asked with a crooked smile, happy to play his game.

“Isn’t really,” Spike shrugged. “You’re just lucky I fancy mouthy and bitchy.”

“Okay, is anyone else really getting weirded out by this? Cause, me? I’m thinking stake the vampire and work the rest out later.”  Buffy complained as she stepped forward despite Giles’ restraining hand.  Spike growled; Xander backed up farther.

“Really, Buffy. We have discussed this.”  Giles turned to Spike now.  “We really do need to discuss the repercussions of this spell, to which you yourself have been subjected.  If you agree to,” Giles took a large breath, “guarantee safe passage, we agree to leave without a fight at the end of our conversation.”

Spike glared out at the group with narrowed eyes, and Xander could feel the ‘no’ coming so she whispered, barely loud enough for Spike, but certainly soft enough that no one else could hear.

“Please, Spike.”  Xander watched Spike take her request into consideration, and even though he was nearly game-faced in his annoyance, he stepped back into the house to allow the group to enter.  Spike had disappeared, but Xander led the group into the front room and the vampire stood there leaning against the stone and smoking.  He hadn’t smoked much lately, but it was a better use for his hands than choking Buffy so Xander didn’t comment.

The group settled in, clustering on one couch while Xander settled on the settee.

“The spell is an ancient ritual for binding two people in a love spell as part of a Celtic treaty,” Giles explained.  “And while the gender change is a surprise, the spell itself is really quite easy to reverse—”

“Oi, never said ya could undo the spell.” Spike turned to face the group, and Xander could see the hints of gold in his eyes.

“And I never said you had a choice. If I didn’t need to save Xander, I’d stake you right here and now.” Buffy quickly stood.

“Hey! For once, not in need of rescue here. Well, not unless you mean fashion rescue, ‘cause Spike’s sense of fashion seems to be stuck in the 19th century.” Xander gestured at the deep blue dress with a velvet bodice that Spike had picked that morning.

“Really? I think it’s nice. Not really something I’d wear to do laundry, but the color’s good and the hair, with that French braid, and hey, you have a French braid in France.” Yep, count on Willow to stop a fight by shocking everyone into silence with completely pointless babbling. Xander was beginning to suspect that she did it on purpose.

“Yes, fascinating as that may be, we do need to…”

“No spells. Had enough of the bloody mojo ta last a lifetime.”

“Spike,” Xander started.

“No.” Spike cut her off before she could finish, and she could see the tension in the way Spike tilted his head and bounced on the balls of his feet.

“Spike, let’s talk a minute.” Xander pulled Spike out of the room, the shocked faces of his friends watching as she dragged the cursing vampire to the kitchen with assurances that they’d be right back.

“Bloody. No.” was his response the minute they reached the privacy of the kitchen.

“Spike, what if Giles is right? What if this is just the spell?” Spike fell silent at that, and started rummaging around in kitchen drawers for a cigarette.

“Do you want this if it isn’t real?” Xander asked, unsure what answer she wanted from the vampire.

“Want this however I can get it,” Spike finally admitted as he lit a cigarette and leaned against the counter so that he faced away.

“I want this too, but I want to know that you really want me. I don’t want to go through life thinking that I’m not good enough and you only like me because Willow’s spell made you,” Xander could feel the tears start, and before she knew it, Spike had flicked the cigarette into the sink and wrapped his arms around her. Realizing that this might be the last time to feel this safe and this loved, she melted into the embrace and shut her eyes against the pain and tears that threatened to spill out.

“You’re good ‘nough. You were before the spell and ya are now.”

“You used to call me the moron,” Xander whispered, the memory cutting like a knife because now she realized that even if the spell hadn’t made her love Spike, it probably had forced Spike to care for her. She couldn’t come up with a better explanation for why the vampire had been so nice, for why the vampire had allowed her to do the things she’d done.

“Never meant it. It’s what hurt ya the most, so I said it.”

“Exactly. You never cared about me before this.” Xander took a deep breath. “I know why I love you with your big bad attitude that hides this sensitive person who reads me poetry and trusts me. I love how strong you are but you never use that strength against me; you make me feel…” Xander lost the words and could only cry.

“Shh, pet. I’m love’s bitch, I am. Always have been. Gave you my heart, and you’ll have it ‘til the day you throw me out.”

“No, you didn’t give me your heart. Willow gave it away for you, and I can’t live with knowing that.”

“You want to do the spell,” Spike said quietly.

“I won’t let them stake you after, not that they could what with the whole master vampire thing you have going,” Xander clung to Spike, knowing that when the spell ended she’d never again get to feel his arms, well not unless he was draining her to get back at Willow for the humiliation of being forced to love a human. The way she felt right now, she wouldn’t even argue if he did want to kill her.

“Right, then let’s get this done,” Spike pushed her away so suddenly that Xander had to grab at the counter to keep from falling. She looked up and Spike’s face had become stone: unemotional, unmoving, and unreadable.

Xander reached out to touch him one last time while she still could, but Spike turned his back and walked out the kitchen door. Xander wiped the back of her hand over her eyes and took a deep breath before joing the rest of them in the sitting room. 

The three Scoobies sat on one of the couches; Spike leaned against the fireplace, and three pairs of eyes moved as though watching a tennis match—Spike to her to Spike to her.

“One condition,” Xander said as she came into the room and sat on the settee. She closed her eyes at the reminder of the night of passion that had started on this piece of furniture. At least she had the memories; they’d have to carry her through a life without Spike. “If this works, Spike gets safe passage out.”

“Oh please, I gave him that deal once, and he didn’t keep his word very well. Besides, once you have your…um…yeah…once you get *that* back, you’ll want Spike dust more than all of us,” Buffy said dismissively.

“Maybe,” Xander conceded just to avoid fighting, and she could see Spike flinch with just the twitch of a muscle. “But he’s earned it.”

“Yeah, by kidnapping you?” Buffy demanded incredulously.

“No, by having Willow put this spell on him and by taking care of me. If you don’t agree, I won’t be part of a counter spell.” Xander crossed her arms and prepared to wait them out on this point.

“Well yes, if that’s your condition, I’m sure we can all live with that, especially since Spike is unlikely to return to Sunnydale after his infatuation with a human becomes known in the demonic community,” Giles agreed with a meaningful stare at Buffy who huffed and rolled her eyes. Spike simply snorted, but Xander could translate that noise into ‘as if I soddin’ care about those wankers.’ Xander gave a small smile and just hoped that once Spike hated her again that she could find someone who made her half as happy.

Xander nodded, and Willow began to pull ingredients out of a backpack. Giles started a small fire where he busied himself with boiling water from a sealed bottle, and Buffy just glared. For his part, Xander thought about what his life was about to become. He’d go back to being the weak member of the group and having his manhood constantly undermined, which now that he thought about it was actually worse than just having his manhood magically removed. Cordy was probably waiting for him back home, unwilling to miss cheerleading practice just to retrieve him, and boy that really said a lot about their relationship.

He’d missed a couple of weeks of school, so he could pretty well count on that sucking, and his parents...well, actually he didn’t know what he’d find with his parents. They rarely ever noticed him except to blame his low grades and general worthlessness on each other’s genes. He’d never hated his own life quite so much, but Willow continued to stir and Giles continued to heat, and Buffy continued to glare, and Xander sat there and let them take away her future, but she knew she had to do it. Forcing Spike to love her was like putting the vampire on a leash, which was far less fun than restraints. Oh, naughty thoughts. She wouldn’t leash him, so even if it meant giving Spike up, she’d cut the leash.

She looked at Spike’s stiff back, and she remembered what it felt like to have that strong body under her, yielding to her, trusting her. She now knew it was the spell, but she couldn’t help feeling the heat of those memories. Spike must have smelled her because he turned to look at her with a puzzled expression.

“Can smell the apple trees from here,” Xander shrugged, and Spike suddenly laughed.

“Goin’ ta get my axe yet,” Spike answered while the other three looked on with confused expressions.

“I’ll stake you before you get half way across the room,” Buffy threatened with narrowed eyes, and Xander exchanged a confused look with Spike before she realized that Buffy had misinterpreted Spike’s comment as a threat.

“Oh yeah, protect all the apple trees of the world from the mighty axe wielding master vampire,” Xander giggled, and Spike gave her his best smile, the one without a hint of lust or leer or jeer in it.

“What?” Buffy asked, clearly confused, which seemed to be the emotion of the day.

“Nothin’ for you ta worry about, slayer. Joke my girl and I share.”

“And we’re back to wiggins-land. Xander is not your girl, I mean, she’s not a—he’s not a girl at all!” Buffy protested.

“Don’t know ‘bout *that*,” Spike insisted with a predatory leer. Xander blushed.

“Not to interrupt this disturbingly enlightening conversation,” Giles interrupted, “but the potion is ready. Spike, Xander, you need to be near the potion and touching when the incantation is read.” Spike took a step forward and offered his hand as though he were a gentleman offering to help her from a carriage. Xander took his hand and moved to the end of the coffee table where Willow had set up the ingredients and Giles prepared to pour the boiling water. Spike slipped an arm around her waist, and Xander allowed herself to lean into him one last time.

“I would ask that everyone refrain from killing once the counter spell has been cast,” Giles said with a warning look to each member of the assembled group. “Since you cast the original spell, you’ll need to read the incantation,” he said to Willow as he put a piece of paper down on the coffee table. Willow began chanting, and after a couple of seconds, Giles began to add the boiling water, causing the potion to steam and hiss. With a flash of light, the counter spell exploded, and Xander found herself crumpled on the floor behind the settee.

“Oi, bloody hell witch, don’t you know any mojo that doesn’t involve explosions?”

“That actually was supposed to happen,” Willow’s voice answered, slightly apologetic.

“Xander, you okay, pet?” Spike called, and Xander could hear Buffy start to swear.

“Damn it, you said this would put everything right again, and Spike calling Xander ‘pet’ does not qualify as right unless you’re in some bizzaro hell dimension.”

“I’m fine Buffy, really, thanks for asking.” Xander stood and watched as the room fell silent, turning to stare.

“Okay, this seems familiar. All I need is Willow offering cookies and Spike showing me a mirror.”

“Cookies, I can do cookies. I’m totally *going* to do cookies, a lot of cookies,” Willow promised with her best totally freaked out expression. Xander looked over and Spike had taken a round mirror off the wall and walked forward, holding it out like a shield. Xander looked in the mirror and froze. Long dark hair pulled back with a few strands escaping the French braid Spike had made, big brown doe eyes in a familiar female face, and small lips still colored with red.

“Okay, I’m guessing the counter spell didn’t work,” Xander said as she gazed at herself.

“I’d never even considered, well, not that I had any reason to,” Giles took off his glasses and started cleaning them furiously.

“G-man?” Xander asked.

“Wot? Ya got ahold of some old stint root again?”

“Well, no. I was very careful with the ingredients; this is a very complex spell, one that a novice never should have attempted,” Giles said dryly. Willow ducked her head.

“Can I stake the vampire or not?” Buffy asked from the other side of the room, and Spike turned to snarl at her. Xander just shook her head and put a hand on Spike’s forearm.

“No eating my friends,” she quietly ordered, and Spike gave Buffy one last snarl before returning his attention to Giles.

“So, Watcher, what ya bollocks up this time?”

“The spell can’t be reversed unless at least one of the parties involved *wants* to leave the relationship.  The original spell was a love compatibility spell intended to test the potential strength of a possible union.  Rival Celtic chiefs would allow their children to undergo the spell, and if the couple wasn’t compatible or if one of them wanted out of the relationship, the spell could be easily broken.” Giles explained while still cleaning his glasses. “This is really quite unexpected.”

“So the spell can’t be broken unless we want to break up?” Xander asked.


Xander looked over at Spike and thought of the possibilities: staying in France, going home and helping protect Sunnydale with Spike by her side, making a life without her parents, seeing the world, just having someone who completely and totally trusted her. She looked into Spike’s smug expression that clearly screamed ‘I’m one irresistible bastard,’ and Xander found herself silently agreeing with a smile.

“I can live with girly bits,” she said with a shrug, and then she found her mouth occupied with Spike kissage. In the background her friends made various noises, but she’d deal with them later. Right now, she wanted to kiss her vampire.

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