Spells, Charms, and God's Blood

"Master Spike," the quiet witch said as she came through the door. The last minion was still begging for mercy, so Spike struck the stake deep into his heart before he turned to Tara.

"Pet," he said in his friendliest voice. It didn't seem to reassure her because she stumbled back a half step.

"Dalton said you wanted to sssee me." Spike could hear the cold edge of fear in her voice, but the bint had steel under that. Not everyone would have come when summoned. Willy had to be dragged between two minions and he was still babbling and begging the whole way. Spike had thought the snitch was going to wet his pants before he'd gone running back out, the minions laughing behind him.

"Yeah, figured you and I had to have a little talk." Spike retreated to his armchair and dropped into it. The television was blank, the music was off, all the other vamps had been exiled and Xander was tucked into bed after a hard night of entertaining Spike, so it was just the two of them. Spike had even told Dalton to make herself scarce.

"Tttalk?" Tara asked, and now the fear was etched into her body language.

"Bloody hell, Glinda, only want to talk, and I mean talking. If I wanted ta pull your intestines out, I'd come right out and say it."

"I suppose you would," she said with just a touch of humor, and at least this time she managed without stuttering as she stepped farther into the room where a second chair waited for her. "I just didn't expect you to call for me."

"You know the deal, luv. If I want to hold the hellmouth, I have to show that any power in this town is under my control, you and Red included."

"I understand," Tara nodded.

"You have enough money? Dalton tells me that Red's working over at that magic shop. I don't want you working and ignoring the nibblet."

"Willow needs to get out of the house. We don't actually need the money. Besides, Dawn's over here two or three nights a week and in school during the day, so she isn't home that often."

"Yeah, but she needs someone stable, and that's you, pet. If I had time, I'd find that worthless father of hers and tie his intestines around his neck for him," Spike growled.

"That isn't necessary."

"No, but it'd give me great pleasure…. Well, until the bit found out anyway," Spike shrugged stopping just short of saying that Hank Summers was safe because Spike wouldn't have his girl upset with him. Tara studied him and nodded.

"How's Red doing?" Spike asked casually.

"Willow?" Tara almost squeaked the word.

"Yeah, her. How's she doing?"


"Still plotting ta kill me?"

"Ssshe…. Willow wouldn't kkkill anyone," Tara stuttered, but Spike figured most humans would if they were in the middle of a vampire lair and had just been caught plotting to kill the vampire. Of course, from what Dawn had said, Willow made the plans while Tara and Dawn pointed out all the problems with the plan.

"Yeah, but I'm not an anyone, am I? I'm one more soulless demon, and she's killed plenty of those."

"We aren't… we wouldn't."

"You wouldn't. I think you have more sense than that, but Red… I'm trusting my instincts, which say she's out for blood."

"Dawn," Tara breathed the word, her eyes going wide, and Spike knew he'd never convince her to believe some lie.

"Dawn understands that I need to know what Willow's up to. If people start thinking she's a free agent, they're going to wonder just how weak I am for not controlling her."

"She's told you what Wwwillow said." Tara brought her hands up to her mouth, and now the smell of fear—of terror—spread though the room.

"Yeah, and in return I told her I wouldn't ever hurt Willow based on what she said."

"You won't?" Tara sounded spectacularly confused.

"No, I bloody well won't. And I know that you're not part of this stupidity, so you've got my word that you're safe as long as you stay out of this shite."

"But Willow…"

"I won't hurt the witch based on what Dawn has told me, but you have to know the only reason why she'd bring home a Grakt horn."

Tara nodded unhappily.

"Right then, so I figure I've got a couple of options. I thought about grabbin' her and finding her a nice padded room with a good ankle chain, but you and I both know that the kind of magics she's digging into don't even necessarily need supplies."

Again, Tara nodded unhappily. Spike knew from long conversations with Dawn that Willow was scaring both her and Tara. They both tried to remind the witch that they were supposed to fight against the darkness and not embrace it, but Dawn had cried as she talked about how they just couldn't reach Willow anymore. For one second, Spike had considered taking Dawn away from the witches and giving her to Clem and a couple of his cousins from court, but the girl needed human company, and the humans in his stable were not enough.

"It comes down to this, pet. I'm going to rely on you to help make sure that your little friend doesn't do something we'd all regret."

Tara looked up sharply. "I can't… I won't hurt her."

"I wouldn't ask you to, luv. But the fact is you have more magic than you've let on to her, and it's time you used it."

Tara shook her head. "I'm not that powerful."

"Fucking hell, do you think I'm an idiot?" Spike roared, and Tara stumbled back several steps, her hands fluttering up to her neck as though she expected Spike to grab her and start feeding. "You let her feed from your magic. You leave your barriers down, but how long will it be before she figures it out? How long before she realizes that she can have all the power she wants and more power than she can handle if she just kills you? It'd be so easy, just cut that tiny connection between your life and your magic, and it would float like a bloated pig right into her. Or what if some demon catches you out after dark, some newcomer who doesn't know that you're under my protection? You're playing fucking games on my hellmouth."

"I didn't… I I I just wanted…"

"I don't fucking care what you want," Spike pushed himself out of his chair and closed the distance between them. Tara backed to the wall, her legs trembling. "Tell me what would happen if Red got all your power right now!"

Tara stared at him. "I I I dddon't know," she eventually managed.

"Think it through," Spike suggested darkly. He watched Tara swallow, her hands flutter around her neck, her heart pound wildly as her gaze flickered around the room. Eventually her eyes found him.

"Ssshe'd bring Buffy back."

"Yeah, and that'd be entertaining, watching the slayer come stumbling out of heaven. And what else?"

"She'd kill you," Tara said a little more firmly.

"Yeah, pet, she would. And I doubt the slayer would be much good after gettin' ripped out of heaven, and Dalton's not old enough or strong enough to hold a hellmouth, not for another century yet. That means that every big bad with an agenda would head straight for good old Sunnyhell. Could she hold the hellmouth from all those challengers?"

"Yes, but using that much power…"

"She'd bloody destroy herself and you," Spike finished. He turned and headed back for his chair. "Red's got power, but you're offerin' to turn her into somethin' dark opening up yourself like that. Takes some bad mojo to feed off other people, and you're trainin' her to do just that," Spike said calmly. Tara didn't answer him, but then he figured she had some thinking to do.

"Right then, so let's get to the practical side of this meeting. First, you're going to do a spell ta protect your powers. You should probably do a set of basic protective spells over yourself as well."

"Willow wouldn't hurt me."

"Before? Maybe not. But you're about to cut her off from her magic battery. I wouldn't count on that bein' the case in the future. She's addicted, pet. She's addicted to the darkness she can feel creepin' in every time she does some big spell, and she doesn't even know why. But feedin' off someone else, it's an evil act. And she's doin' it every time she pulls on that source of power she can feel just below her skin. You cut her off from that, and she's going to panic."

"I don't know…"

"Luv, I didn't give you a choice. You either do the spell right here, or I have a shaman upstairs. He did the magical trace on Willow's power, and I promised that if ya weren't the obedient little witch who did what her master ordered that he could feed off your power and drain it. He's already evil, so I don't imagine it'd do him much harm." Spike watched Tara tremble, her eyes involuntarily darting up to the ceiling. If she used her magic to reach out, she would find Dromac, his dark energy threatening to suck up her own.

When her eyes came back down to Spike, she nodded, the iron in her once again showing. "I'll do the spells."

Spike gestured toward a cabinet sitting on the edge of the room. Silently, Tara went and retrieved the magical equipment and supplies, laying it out in the center of the room and drawing a chalk circle before she started whispering her spells.

Watching the witch work, Spike had to admire her thoroughness. Magical barriers, memory charms, shields against tracking, charms to prevent her magic from being siphoned, mystical alarms if someone tried to access her powers: one after another Tara whispered the spells, and the room glowed with light that sank into her skin. Spike's demon recoiled from the white magic and the persistent feeling of goodness and guilt that swirled around the room. The witch had attracted so much of the white magics that Spike could feel his own memories start to pull at him as though he were his souled wanker of a sire. The feeling made him vamp out until finally Tara finished, the last of the magics fading into her skin.

"It's done," Tara said, still staring at the candle in front of her with her hair hanging in front of her face.

"Now, there's the matter of the Grakt horn."

But Tara was already shaking her head. "Willow has protections on it. I can't get it without going through her."

"Yeah, I figured, luv. And if I send Dromac, someone's going to get hurt." Tara glanced up for just a second, but in that second, Spike could see that if it came down to a choice, Tara would drop those shields and let Willow feed from her again to save her from Dromac. The best thing for Spike was to let things play out, let Tara see Willow through the withdrawal, and maybe then she'd realize how much she was hurting the witch through her attempt to take care of her and provide for her.

"So, you're going to do a protective charm for me."

Tara looked up at him, confused. "A shield?" she clarified.

"No, a protective charm," Spike repeated. She drew her brows together at that.

"Master Spike," she said carefully, "I can't do white magic like a protective charm without…" She verbally stumbled into silence.

"Oi, I'm evil. Not like you're telling me something I don't know," Spike rolled his eyes at her attempts not to insult him. He'd be insulted if she suggested that she could use his own soul as the anchor for a protective charm. Instead he picked up the wood carving that normally sat next to his chair. He fingered the cool wood for a second before standing up and taking it to Tara, crouching in front of her.

Still confused, she took the piece and ran her fingertips over the perfectly carved features. "It's Buffy," she said softly. It was Buffy, but not like Spike had ever seen her. She was smiling, her body twisting as if caught mid-twirl and a long skirt from an elegant evening gown twirled around her feet. Spike could even see the muscles in her back and the fingers as they disappeared into the folds of the skirt she was holding as though she were a child playing dress up and fingering the silk. "It's beautiful."

"My boy made it for me," Spike said proudly. "The minions think it's a tribute to me taking my third slayer."

"But you didn't kill--. Oh, of course," Tara corrected herself.

"Yeah, wouldn't seem very proper for a vampire ta just about get himself dusted tryin' to save the slayer, would it?" Spike almost whispered the words. He had done his best. He'd thrown everything into that fight and the slayer had still died, and he'd come fucking close to following her, but Tara'd been there, so he didn't need to explain that to her.

"Spike, I don't understand."

"Want you to use the carving as a fetish. Center the spell on that, and use Xander to anchor it."

"Spike, if you do that, you can't use any dark magic to protect yourself, no hexes or shields or anything." She looked up at Spike with concern. "White magic and dark magic don't coexist well."

"Yeah, I told Dromac to nullify his work as soon as you've done the spell," Spike agreed. "He'll leave the spells on the lair and on good old Sunnyhell proper, but I'm counting on your spell to protect me. If Red throws around the sort of dark magic a Grakt horn channels, I want white magic here to shield me from it."

"But Spike, the spell…. White magic like that requires a powerful energy source."

"You don't think he loves me," Spike sat back. He'd expect an argument like that from Rupert, but Tara surprised him.

"I think he needs you. I think he's content here," Tara hurried to say. "I can weave a spell from that, but it won't be strong."

"I'm willing to trust the boy's feelings, so you just do your spell."

"I'm not sure…. There are a couple of spells I could try," Tara said softly, biting her lip indecisively.

"Pick the strongest."

"The stronger the spell, the more it requires—" Tara stopped.

Spike leaned forward. "My boy loves me, so you pick the strongest spell, and you let Xander do his part."

"Does he know?"

"Wot? That his childhood best friend is tryin' to kill me and set the whole world on its ear? That Red has lost her fucking mind and is losing her soul by inches? No," Spike said firmly, and he glared at Tara to make it perfectly clear that no one would be telling Xander. The boy worried enough knowing half the truth; he didn't need any more.

"The spell I used when I came here. It protected me from my family's magic so they had to physically find me, and it stopped them from using magic to force me home."

"Yeah? Good one then?"

"You would have to share a memory."

"What kind of memory?" Spike narrowed his eyes and studied the witch, but she wasn't giving any of the signs of double-crossing him.

"A memory that you know is based on love. We'll use the carving and that memory to turn Xander's love into a protective charm."

"I haven't heard of this one," Spike said carefully. After a century with Dru and the first Dalton, Spike had heard of most magics, but then the vampires weren't likely to go delving into white magic, were they?

"It's strong, but if his love falters…"

"It won't," Spike said confidently. It was probably the first time in his life or his unlife that he could say that.

"Let me get the supplies together." Tara shifted up to her knees and started rearranging the candles. Giving her room to work, Spike headed toward the door and leaned against it, lighting a cigarette as he watched her work. She needed a memory that was about love. Spike sorted through them. He had dozens that would work: sleepy mornings playing with the boy's tail, sitting in some club watching the boy tease him, the relief when Spike had left some wanker bleeding but alive just because Xander wanted it, the look in Xander's eyes when he said he'd help the slayer. One by one, Spike sorted his memories until he chose the one strong enough to make a charm that even Willow couldn't break.

"I'm ready," Tara said. She had rearranged the candles, and a small pot of herbs sat in front of her on the left side, the carving on her right.

"Where do you want me?"

"In front, inside the circle," Tara said. Stepping across the salt circle, Spike could feel that creeping sensation under his skin again, and he vamped out immediately.

"Are you—"

"Too much white magic. It's fine," Spike growled, but he forced his demon back and plopped down where Tara had left him space between two white candles.

"Start by telling me the story and the magic will start to pull the memory out. I'll use that to anchor the charm and set it in the carving."

"But I'll still remember," Spike said, suddenly alarmed. This was one memory he didn't want to lose.

"Yes. You're just sharing it," Tara nodded. "You'll remember, but because I'm doing the spell, I'll remember too. The memory will have to go through me."

"Right." Spike paused for a second. "If you use any of this against me, anything you're about to see, I will rip your intestines out, turn ya, and then torture you to dust," he warned. Tara paled a little, but she nodded.

Spike thought back to the dark house, the way the walls kept sliding away from him, the thoughts that tripped through his mind like drunken ghosts. Blood on his tongue, but not human, not right. He pulled back and Dalton seemed to shimmer into existence out of thin air, her neck bleeding as she crouched in front of him. For a second, he hated her, although he couldn't think why. And then that hate evaporated and he pulled her up into his arms, guiding her fangs to his own neck. She hesitated for a second before taking the offering.

"Sire," she breathed when he pulled her hair away, forcing her to stop.

"Bring my boy," he ordered. Dalton turned into a giant rat that squeaked and clicked before she just faded, leaving him alone with the other rats who whispered lies about keys and souls and dark-eyed boys.

"Master?" a familiar voice called.

"Hide the mice," Spike hissed at the ghosts that circled. He wouldn't have them soddin' lying to his boy.

"Spike?" the boy didn't usually use his name. That was for private moments when the boy would whisper his name. Spike staggered to the door, wondering if the boy had started without him, using his name like that.

The boy was standing in the dark hall, his head two sizes too large and his eyes blinking owlishly. "You need blood," Xander told him.

Spike shook his head. "Too much blood." Too bloody much much blood. Fucking hellgod. Fire for blood. Glutted on blood. Should give some to the boy. Or Dalton. Give some blood to Dalton. Spike shook his head and forced himself back to the reality in front of him. "What are you doing here?"

Xander's head shrunk to half size, and Spike felt a vague urge to vomit, something he hadn't done since he'd been that wanker William. "Dalton brought me, Master."

Snakes grabbed Spike and pulled at him, and Spike snarled, baring his teeth before the snakes became Xander's arms and he collapsed onto the stairs. Dalton. She shouldn't be bringin' the boy, she was supposed to get them the fuck out. Burning. It was all burning. "Dalton!" Spike snarled, and the vampiress' face floated in the air. "You still have that portal?"

"Portal?" Dalton looked at him confused, and Spike felt rage burn through him. He had to get his boy safe.

"You lose that portal and I'll bloody rip the skin from ya before I turn ya to dust," Spike promised as he reached out to grab Dalton's throat, but the image just floated back out of reach. If she started picking up those poncy habits like Drac, floating around like a fucking princess, he was so staking her, even if she was the most controlled and intelligent vamp he'd met in a hundred years. Even Angelus approved of her as a childe.

"Portal, yep, got a portal right here." For a second, Xander's face flashed inside Dalton's features, and Spike felt terror rip up his back that Dalton had eaten his boy. But Xander's warm hands were still on him, anchoring him, so Xander had to be alive. Spike cocked his head at Dalton, and she returned to her own ghostly form.

"Right. Things get dodgy, you get them out," he ordered his childe. Childe. Never thought he'd have one of those. Most vamps just annoyed him too much. He'd have dusted himself that's for sure. For a second, Spike was confused at the idea of siring his own human self William, but he shook the confusion off with a definite belief that he would have staked himself.

"Get them out, got it," Dalton agreed in a Xander voice.

"Fail me and I'll bloody make ya wish ya were never turned. You get Xand and the bit away, you got it?"

"Got it."

"Be just like the old courts, having pets. But you lose 'em and ya'll find yourself starvin' in some dimension without walkin' happy meals wanderin' by every two minutes," Spike fell back on his best argument. He went to dust, and fear of him couldn't keep Dalton in line, but a vamp would do a lot to avoid starvin'. And she was controlled. She wouldn't eat his boy. But she'd bite him. Spike felt despair tear at him at the thought of someone else's fangs marking his boy. He'd taken him. He'd trained him. The boy looked at him with those brown eyes, and he didn't want Xander looking at Dalton that way.

"Okay, as disturbing as this is, I'm thinking that's your idea of a backup plan, and can I say your backup plan sucks. I don't want Dalton. I want you." Xander appeared on the stairs next to him, reading Spike's mind and taking away those fears. Spike reached out and fingered his boy's jaw.

"Can't let Dalton know, though. Angelus knows, and that's bad enough. Tosser," Spike admitted softly

"Yep, Angelus the Tosser, that' s his official name. Well, that and Angelus the Poof or Peaches." Xander smiled at the joke, and Spike could feel himself sway as the world spun a little too fast.

"Peaches," Spike laughed.

"What have you been drinking?"

"God's blood. Just don't tell Xander." Couldn't tell Xander. Xander expected him to be the master, so he had to be able to fix anything, only he couldn't. His boy wanted the slayer alive and now her broken body was lying in the street. Bloody carrion eaters were probably already munching on her bones. And his bit would never look at him again because he wasn't any better than William, always with the big talk but not gettin' the job done.

"Right, Xander will never know you're drunk off your ass. Spike, you need blood. Let me go get Dalton."

Spike frowned as he tried to figure that out. Dalton was right there. And why shouldn't Xander know he was drunk? Didn't Xander like him drunk? "Don't bloody care if Xander knows I’m pissed. He's seen me pissed plenty."

"That I have."

"Just don't tell 'em that I bloody love him," Spike whispered the words so the ghostly Dalton wouldn't hear them. Bad enough that he was so fucking tits over arse for his boy, but if the others knew, they'd hurt his boy. Spike growled.

"He already knows," a voice promised. Spike turned his head and William was sitting there, glasses and curly hair and those bloody foppish manners. He could have Cecily; Spike had Xander. Xander was better.

"Wouldn't go into battle with a soddin' god for the slayer, that's for sure. Boy's got knackers. Went up against Angelus for me, which is about as even a fight as me going up against a god." Spike poked a finger at William, who just caught it and studied him as though Spike were some bit of obscure Latin poetry. Spike laughed as he remembered finding the dirty limericks in one book. All offense and horror, he'd still gone back and translated the whole lot.

"I can't believe you went up against Glory just for him." William said, all prim and proper and disapproving.

"Who the bloody hell are you?" Spike demanded. How dare William not approve of him. He'd bloody saved the world, which is more than the stupid wanker had ever done with his poetry and his bloody stupid rules.

"A nobody," William admitted as he looked down. Spike smiled at that admission. William hadn't been anybody, but Spike was. "You were just talking about Xander," William prompted him.

"Too much blood. Burns like fire in my veins. Can't even bloody heal properly."

"Maybe you should get the blood out of you, then." William sounded ready to go get the apothecary and the leeches.

"Blood's power. Slayer died givin' me a chance ta get my fangs in her. Soddin' good death. Woulda liked ta face her, but it'd upset my Xander."

"Yeah, it would," Xander suddenly took William's place, and Spike looked around for his lost soul. "What about the minions? Couldn't they distract her?" Xander asked.

"Minions lasted about five minutes. Wankers. Slayer was a right treat, though. Didn't even flinch away from death. But the bitch-god didn't expect her to have a Master Vampire backin' her up. Gave us an edge."

Dalton flickered back into view, but she was dim this time and had a red pen in her hand, raised as if about to give Spike a bad mark on his paper. "Just get Xander and the bit clear. I'll follow if it goes tits over arse," Spike muttered. His hand found Xander's hair and started stroking it. "Won't lose him. Don't care if it makes me a tosser, I love the clod." Dalton paused, her pen suspended mid-air before she nodded and turned to look at William who rose from the shadows.

"Dawn and Xander are safe," William said.

"Won't bloody forgive me if I don't at least try ta save the world. Bit'll never forgive me for letting her sis get killed. Xander'd better though. I'll put the boy in the cage until he forgives me. Tried my best." Dalton stepped forward and bent over, but instead of smelling of blood, she smelled of markers and paper.

"You don't need the cage. Xander forgives you," Dalton whispered, and Spike wondered when she'd gotten her soul.

"Soddin' embarrassing saving the world."

"Well, as one of the saved, thank you," Xander reappeared on the step next to Spike. He was getting a headache tryin' to keep up with all the people in the room.

"Tired." Spike sagged, and Xander maneuvered him into a more comfortable position.


"Gotta watch for danger."

"Sleep." Xander repeated. "I'll watch out for you."

"We'll watch out for him," William said even though he still sounded pretty disapproving. Wanker would probably have a heart attack if he knew half of what he did with his boy. Spike smiled at the thought of all that warm skin under his hands. Warmth he could never have again.

"Cold," Spike muttered.

"Funny, because you feel pretty hot," Xander said. But then Spike was lifted, floating through the air, and Dalton and William floated up with them. "There'd better be a bed up here," Xander said, breathing heavy as he reached the top of the stairs.

"To the right, pet," Spike said as he watched Dalton vanish through a door. Neat trick that. He'd have to torture her into tellin' him how she did that because she was obviously holding out on him. Xander kicked the door open.

"Right then, the rest of you lot get out," Spike ordered. Xander paused before putting him down on the bed. The covers were dusty. William definitely didn't approve.

"You want me to leave?" Xander asked, brown eyes floating into Spike's vision.

"No. You can't leave. I made sure of that. Won't be left again," Spike muttered as he pulled Xander's hand to his chest and then fell back onto the bed. Xander followed, curling up next to Spike.

"I won't leave you because I love you, drunk Master of mine," Xander said. Spike turned his head away and glared at the other two.

"Get out before I torture you to death." Dalton looked amused; William looked constipated. Of course, William usually had been. Too little exercise and too much meat.

A warm hand stroked his cheek and then slowly pulled Spike's head back around. "Just focus on me, Spike," Xander whispered. Spike opened his mouth to complain about the other two, but Xander leaned in and kissed him, gently, tenderly, and Spike lost his train of thought. Kissing with just lips brushing against lips, Xander circled his fingers over Spike's chest, over the bruises that still tingled and twitched when the warmth touched them.

Spike blinked up, words abandoning him as Xander finally sat up and started unbuttoning Spike's shirt. "My mother used to kiss my scrapes. She said you always healed better that way, or at least she did before she started drinking. But then you lived in the basement, you remember that part." Spike did remember that part, but it didn't make sense. Why would he make his pretty little pet live in a basement? Had he been bad?

"I love that you worried about me, but if there's world ending going on, I'd rather go down with my vampire than go running off with Dalton," Xander whispered before he bent down and gently killed a slash across Spike's shoulder. His warm breath ghosted over Spike's skin, lips skimming the wound gently before he moved up to a spectacular bruise. "I love you. I'm not leaving you." Xander's lips softly pressed to the sore flesh, and Spike tilted his head back with a sigh.

"I've loved you since you didn't kill that girl in the parking lot." Xander kissed Spike's jaw right where Glory's fist had hit it so hard that Spike could hear the bone crack. "You were willing to change for me. No one ever did that before." Xander moved down to Spike's stomach, kissing the bruised and battered skin just above Spike's navel, and Spike rested his hand on his boy's soft hair. His boy. Fingers at his pants.

"Didn't want ya miserable," Spike muttered.

"I know," Xander answered as he opened Spike's jeans. "And I love you, too."

Spike sucked in a breath when Xander's lips found the wound on his hip, the one where the pole had gone through his flesh. "I love you. I'm not leaving you. I'm not letting Dalton feed on me." Between each statement, Xander kissed the tender skin around the injury.

"You'll do what I say," Spike said, tightening his grip on Xander's hair and pulling him. Xander crawled up Spike's body without arguing.

"What does Master say?" Xander asked once they were eye to eye. Spike let go of his boy's hair, and stroked it.

"Survive, pet. You have to survive." Spike looked at his mark scarred into Xander's shoulder.

"I will, Spike, I promise. But you have to promise to survive, too. I can't lose anyone else." Spike looked up when the warm tear hit him.

"Not your fault, pet," Spike murmured as his eyes again wandered to the mark. "I fought for you. She couldn't have had more help than that. Great wanker of a sire didn't come, not for either one of us."

"I would have come. Dalton chained me in the room," Xander whispered. Spike stopped petting Xander, letting his hand drop back to the mattress as the world went sort of round like the inside of a fishbowl. The corners flattened into curves and Spike fisted the mattress to keep from grabbing his boy hard enough to break bones.

"Shhh. You're getting better already. You just have to sleep," Xander kissed his way south again, and Spike trembled at the soft touches, the flickers of warmth, the whisper soft press of lips against his aching body. When Xander closed his lips around Spike's cock, the warmth burned Spike, laid him open as he twisted and arched off the bed. He came with a shout, and then Xander was licking, slowly easing Spike back down to the bed, stroking tight muscles and muttering promises.

"Pet," Spike opened his arms and Xander was there, curling into his side. Reaching down for Xander's cock, Spike stopped when a hand intercepted his own.

"Tomorrow, Spike," Xander whispered, promising with those words to be there tomorrow. Spike nodded and let his eyes drift closed. Behind Xander, William stood, but instead of disapproving, the wanker just looked soddin' jealous.

Spike jerked when the light around him sank into his skin, burning him from the inside. He screamed once, Tara's shocked face wiping out the dream.

"Fuckin' hell that hurt," Spike gasped when he caught his breath.

"Master!?" Spike turned to see Xander, his hair tangled from sleep and naked as the day he was born, short sword in hand.

"It's all right, pet. Go back to bed," Spike said as he cracked his neck first one way and then the other. "The charm take alright then?" Spike asked. He felt different.

Tara still stared at him with wide eyes, which was probably good since Xander had just realized that he was in danger of flashing his little friend and had gone scampering back to the bedroom.

"It took," Tara said. "It will stop whatever Willow does."

"Good!" Spike pushed himself up and stretched muscles which seemed suddenly sore. Bending over, he picked up the carving. He could feel the warmth in the wood, the power settling into every cell of the statue.

"Spike," Tara said softly as she stood.

"I meant it, luv," Spike warned, "you shared the memory because you had to, but you don't mention it and you sure as hell don't use it against me. That means you don't tell Red any of this."

For a second, Spike thought Tara might argue with him, but then she nodded and ducked her head submissively.

"Got to go reassure the boy that we weren't invaded or some such rot. Clean up before you go," Spike ordered as he headed for the bedroom. He didn't bother waiting to see if Tara obeyed. He had a sudden need to curl up with his boy.

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