Chocolatey Goodness

Mad Poetess

7 Jeopardy

Xander pulled the Chevy onto the gravel drive at the back of the Harris home, careful not to hit the battered trash can (again), and left the motor humming. He was running late. The sky had darkened to that just-post-sunset dusk, still light enough to see by, but giving everything the silver-gray shine of a black-and-white photo. The outside door to his basement was cracked open about a foot, and Spike stood in that opening, leaning against the doorframe and smoking a cigarette, the light from inside casting a sort of halo around his white-blond head. Oh, Spike as an angel. There's a men-in-white-coats image. They'll haul me away for that one alone. Xander leaned against the side of the purring car.

"You ready?" A good question, because Xander sure as hell didn't know if he was. Heading off to Giles' apartment, to see the Scooby Gang as a group for the first time since this insane weekend had turned them into…whatever it was they were. What…lovers? Demon-hunting buds? Television critics who happened to share a hellhole on the Hellmouth and a taste for each other's cocks? Okay, definitely way too into the introspection here. He had to either run with this thing, or not, because it would never make any sense, and he was just going in circles trying to sort it all out. Fuck it. Off we go into the wild blue yonder.

"Yeah," said Spike, shortly. "You're late." He threw the cigarette to the grass outside the door, and stomped it out with the toe of his boot. Slung his duster over his silk-covered shoulder, slammed the door shut, and strode toward the car, carrying a wrinkled grocery bag in the other hand. Vaulted over the door without a pause, and landed in the passenger seat, looking at the interior of the car, examining it with a professional eye.

"Yeah. Sorry; I should've called. Two cashiers called in, we had a flood of customers, and they actually had me on a register, for once. We don't have to be there 'til eight, though. Well, I don't. They don't even know you're coming."

"Don't have to call. I'm not your mum," Spike muttered, running a hand over the gearshift. "What's this thing do?"

"Makes the car go faster if you put it in the slot marked 'overdrive'," Xander deadpanned.

"Meant speed-wise, git." Ooh, grumpy vampire. What, he miss 'Passions' again today?

"Haven't tried it on the highway. It's my uncle's, and if I do anything nasty to it, I'll be the stack of steaming body parts formerly known as Xander Harris. "

Spike grunted. "Sissy. I could make this baby fly."

Xander looked at him in consternation. Spike? Spike drive this car? Um, no. Bad idea. Somewhere in the depths of his soul, he heard the little Luciano Pavarotti warning system sing "Mis-TA-ake" in D-Minor. Giles had complained bitterly that Spike drove like a blindfolded Hunter S. Thompson on a three-day acid-binge. Of course, this from a man who drove a Citroen, but still, knowing Spike, Xander was inclined to believe him. Plus, Giles was also a man who might very well have experienced said three-day acid-binge, sometime in the early seventies. Probably just before buying that car.

"I think not," he answered, getting back in. " You even think about getting behind the wheel, you'll be the pile of dust formerly known as William the Bloody. I. Do. Not. Own. This. Car. Lather, rinse, repeat."

"Did that already," Spike replied absently, running fingers through un-gelled hair. It was almost wavy, and Xander wondered if it wouldn't actually have curls, if the bleaching weren't frying it straight. He must've washed it just long enough ago for it to dry, because Xander could still smell pineapple-and-watermelon shampoo. And essence of Spike, which was just a faint scent of coolness and salt, like standing next to the ocean at night.

"So. You're talkative tonight. What's the matter-- Timmy down the well again?" Xander asked as he backed out of the half-drive and into the alley.

"No." Spike was watching the road go by over the side of the passenger door. Must've been fascinating. More fascinating than looking at Xander, anyway. Nice view of the back of Spike's head and the way his hair was curling just a little bit at the ends, high on his neck.

"Well, that was monosyllabic. Let's try again. How was your day, Xander? Oh, fine, Spike. If I show promise, they might promote me to assistant scut-bucket carrier. And yourself? Wonderful, Xander. I watched Passions, ate Count Chocula, drank blood, didn't do the dishes, made obscene phone calls to Buffy's mom, and missed you like crazy."


"Really? Which part?"

"Joyce says hi." Still staring at the road.

"You didn't…" Xander choked, torn between cracking up and disbelief and the certain knowledge that Spike was playing him again.

"No." A bit disgustedly, as if the mere thought that Xander might have believed him was just one piece of stupidity too many. The straw that broke the vampire's back.

Spike had now at least turned his head to look at the road in front of them, which meant Xander got the lovely classic Spike profile, lips pressed firmly together, jaw clenched. Generally known as 'Pissed Spike, Please Stand Back.' What's going on now? Does one of us always have to be a jerk for this thing, whatever it is, to work?

So Xander played the quiet game, too. Just drove, with the wind blowing over both of them, two guys in a classic convertible, heading for one of the better sections of town. He spent as much time as he could spare from watching the road, on watching Spike. Duster draped over the back of the seat, the vampire wore his habitual red silk dress shirt over one of several interchangeable black T's. Classic Spike. An improvement over Hawaiian Spike with Bermuda shorts, yeah, but there'd been something about seeing Spike on Saturday, wearing Xander's jeans, too-tight navy-blue T… Like he belonged to me, for a minute, there. But you don't own a vampire. They're like cats. They just let you feed 'em and scratch 'em every now and then. Bite you when you least expect it. Anyway, I can't keep a spider plant alive, let alone Spike.

Still, looking at Spike in what was, for the moment, his car, in the dark, his hair ruffling in the breeze, practically glowing under each streetlamp they passed… It was easy to pretend. That Spike was his. That it was about more than sex and chocolate and a few laughs. Maybe easier to pretend that than to pretend he didn't want it to be true. Which was just as crazy as everything else. What's he thinking? What does he think about me?

"What?" Spike finally asked, glancing over at him. Annoyed.

"Just trying to get inside your head." Xander answered honestly. Shrugged.

Spike laughed. One short, sharp snort. "Better off sticking with my arse. It's less crowded in there."

"Oookay, since we're being crude tonight, just what the hell crawled up your ass and died?" Xander could get pissy too, if that was what it took to get any kind of communication out of the suddenly sullen vamp. What did I do? I thought we had a good day yesterday?

"Well, Angelus, though not in that order." Spike answered with a twisted smile that was gone as quickly as it appeared. "Oh… TMI?" he added sarcastically.

"Oh, yeah, massive surprise there. You'd have to be Joyce Summers not to see that one. Oh," Xander affected a combination of Spike's accent and a woman's voice: "you were my… my Yoda! How could you!" He returned his eyes to the road in front of him. Yeah. History. With a capital HIS. Duh. Could practically smell it. They might as well have been wearing big smiley-face buttons that said 'Ask me why I hate this guy.'

No, the thought of Angel, or the guy he used to be, with Spike...not a shock. Vamps, right? Vamp Wills. Real Wills. All that Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt crap. Swing both ways. Like me, I guess. But he didn't want to think about Spike and Angel. Or Angelus, or Drusilla, or Harmony, or Tom Cruise, or the waitress at the Roadrunner Café, or whether he swung both ways. He just wanted to know what had happened to turn Spike into a major lump of grump.



It really had been a good day. Night and morning, anyway. Hunt demons, shag in a semi-public place, taunt the Slayer…wander back to watch telly and fall asleep in each other's arms.

"Oh, you have to watch this. It's the first of this series. Absobloodylutely hilarious."

"You're corrupting me with British TV? No whips, no chains, no leather, just Comedy Central?" Xander leaned on Spike's arm and peered over him at the television.

"It's one o'clock in the morning, and as you've pointed out, my sleep schedule is massively fucked, thanks to you. I'm too tired for whips n' chains, even if I could find any. But hold that thought. If I can't corrupt you with culture, leather's next on the list."

Xander snorted, then was quiet for a moment, as if contemplating the possibility that Spike was serious. He was, of course, but all in good time.

"Okay, who's she?"

"Kate. Short for Bob. Shut up-- it's the first of the series. You don't need any background."

Xander was having hysterics by the time the faux advert for "Hey Nonny Nonny, I Love You, Hot Sex Madrigal in the Middle of My Tights, and Many, Many More" was over. When Rik Mayall appeared on the screen, with a codpiece the size of a pith helmet, and a hearty "Nursie-- I like it, firm and fruity. Am I glad to see you, or did I just put a canoe in my pocket..." Xander was shaking so hard he rolled off the bed and landed on the floor with a loud thump. Spike rolled over twice, and gazed down at him.

"Never thought Flash was quite that funny, m'self. You need a hand there? Breath of life? 'Cos I'd have to call the witch or somethin'."

Xander gasped, rubbing his arm where he'd hit the floor. "Noo..." wheeze... "it's just... he's you!" Lost in uncontrollable giggling again.

Spike glanced back at the screen. Flashheart was deep-kissing Blackadder's bride-to-be while Edmund looked on uncomfortably.

"I think I'm offended. If I'm any of them, surely it's Edmund Blackadder, greatest wit of the Elizabethan era."

Xander sat up slowly, resting his chin on the edge of the bed and staring across it at the telly. "Oh, yeah, maybe sarcasm-wise you're him, but... look at Flash. Just look at him."

"She's got a tongue like an electric eel, and she likes the taste of a man's tonsils!" Flash proclaimed, which had Xander at it again, slamming his head into the mattress.

"That's you! If he was wearing skin-tight jeans instead of a codpiece, he'd be Renaissance Spike. 'I'm so hot, no jeans in the world can contain me...' "

"Thanks, pet. I like you too." Spike grinned at him nastily.

"I meant, comma, that's the way you act. Walkin' around in those jeans, with that face, like you can take down the apocalypse with the power of your dick alone... Are you sure you're not wearin' a codpiece under 'em?"

Spike shot a glance over at the jeans he wasn't, in fact, wearing, and curled his mouth into a smug little S. "You know better."

He'd pulled Xander back onto the bed, and they'd curled up together, Xander's head on his arm again, to watch a second episode. Fell asleep somewhere in the middle of the early "Whose Line Is It Anyway" that followed. Spike awoke in the same position, to Xander saying quietly, "Hey, wake up. C'mon, Spike. I have to get up and go to work."

Almost unconsciously, they'd both fallen into the habit of not leaving the bed for any real length of time without waking the other one up. For Spike, it was a courtesy he'd often wished had been extended to him.  You fall asleep with somebody, it's only right you know when they're taking off. Quick-and-dirty's fine, no strings come sundown's fine, but doing a runner while the other one's asleep…that's low. Cold.)  He didn't like waking up alone, not if he hadn't fallen asleep that way. Didn't like cold beds.

What had he dreamed? Something about eating Rowan Atkinson, but the eyebrows got stuck in his teeth. He'd watched Xander dress. Not nearly as fun as watching him undress, especially since after a weekend of reasonably acceptable fashion statements, the younger man had apparently decided to return to traditional Xanderwear today. Ice-cream sundae print boxers. Spike kept forgetting to take the piss about those "Hello Kitty" ones, which had disappeared somewhere, as if Xander wasn't keen on reminding him. Chinos, fine but boring. Sleeveless white vest. How back-lawn barbecue suburban could you get? Hideous green tropical print shirt over it. Spike had clucked disapprovingly, and Xander had grinned.

"Oh, you love it. I'm the Yves St. Laurent of Sunnydale. The women follow me throwing kisses and bonbons."

"I'd have guessed rotten tomatoes, but keep buildin' up the fantasy life. It helps to have a rich inner landscape when the outer one looks like this." Spike indicated the early-morning basement.

"Yeah, yeah. You want me and you know it." The banter had grown easier, in those few scant days. Not that Spike couldn't embarrass the human in a second, with a well-chosen phrase, sometimes even just the right sideways glance, but it was a grinning embarrassment. A rueful, accepting one.

Xander had grabbed his keys, when he' d finally made himself look as much like a reject from "Three's Company" as he possibly could, and walked back over to the bed, where Spike sat shaking his head. The boy grinned a bit shyly, and leaned in to kiss him goodbye. Spike pushed him off playfully.

"I'm not kissin' you while you're wearin' that. It might be contagious!"

"Yes, you are," Xander said, leaning back down.

"S'pose so." Spike muttered, his reply muffled by the young man's lips. In a too-short moment: "Oh hell, great. Now I find I have a sudden urge to go shop at The Gap. See what you've done?"



So... when had it all gone to hell? Somewhere just past "Passions" and about halfway into whatever Hollywood tabloid show had followed it. So.. three-fifteen-ish, if Spike had to put a time to it. If his stolen watch had actually been working, he probably could've been sure, but no matter how often he glanced reflexively at it, a solid line of eights was all it displayed.  Taking it off would be a good idea, wouldn't it. But no. Too much bloody work, trying to get the thing off right-handed. What possessed me to put it on my left wrist? 

He'd got bored. Which was always a sure sign of trouble. Since the shattered remote control lay in far too many pieces on the workbench against one wall, he'd have to stand next to the telly and channel-flip if he wanted to find anything good--a decent comedy or a slice-and-dice action-horror flick. Instead, he decide to prowl. He'd done it before, looking for chocolate, but this was the fun sort of prowling.

 What's he got hidden in here, eh? Stack of Playboys in a drawer somewhere? Or maybe Men's Health and Efficiency, or whatever they're calling it these days. Can't see the little shyboy having the wrinklies to walk up and buy a Playgirl or one of the more obviously bent equivalents.  Snarky Voice made an unexpected appearance, being strangely supportive of Xander:  Yeah, he can lick your bloody fangs, but admit in public that he likes to suck cock? Or thinks he might? He is a nineteen year old male in Sunnydale, after all. Don't knock the boy's knackers. 

Drawers. Boxes. Being unusually neat about it all. A slightly scorched maroon graduation robe, for instance, folded up in a cardboard box, made Spike smile. He rather wished he'd been around to see the carnage that had turned Harmony into cheer-vamp, and the school into the lovely-smelling ruin it was now. A photo on top of it: Xander, Jonathan the lonely and clueless, and a big lad he didn't recognize, all draped to the shoulders with lovely sharp weapons, and looking like the world was about to end. Which it had been. As usual.

A dried white rose taped to the back of a picture of Xander and Anya in formalwear.  Knew he was a soddin' little romantic. Don't know whether to be disgusted or go 'awwww...' Cleans up well, anyway.  More photos, shuffled around in a shoebox: Xander and Willow in their early teens, Xander and the werewolf, Oz, cool and laid-back, leaning against the entrance to the Sunnydale High library. Well, Oz was looking cool, and Xander was looking like he was desperately trying to look cool.

The Slayer in flannel pajamas and bunny slippers. Spike slipped that one surreptitiously into his pocket, next to the snapshot Xander had given him of the adolescent babble twins doing the Lambada. Realized that Xander had been right...there wasn't a hell of a lot of room in his pockets. Less room if he kept looking at pictures of Xander in a tux, that was for sure. What else? Rupert, in his terribly tweedy days, classically put-upon, chewing on the left earpiece of his specs.

A dim Polaroid of Xander, Willow, Buffy, and the Soulful One, like a diagram of dysfunctional group dynamics courtesy of the Dr. Laura show. Angel and the Slayer looking gloppily into each other's eyes. Xander glaring at Angel. Red, her hair long and parted down the middle, more witchy than ever, staring at Xander like he'd hung the bloody moon. Spike sighed.  As if our lot were any better. Me rolling about moping after Dru, her sidlin' up to Angelus, him off sending the Slayer love notes in the form of dead gypsies... Me arseing about after him as well. Like I've got room to talk about livin' in Sunnydale 90210. 

He shoved the pictures back in their box and slid it onto the shelf, flicking idly though the pile of comic books next to it. The phone rang, with an annoying little blert sound. He wasn't about to answer it himself, not knowing who it might be, so he let the machine get it.

"You've reached Xander Harris' den of debauchery and carnal delight. Ladies, please leave a message at the tone, and the X-man will get back to you in the order in which you called. Oh, don't hang up, now. Just leave a message, and unless I owe you money, I'll call you back as soon as I get home. From work. Did I mention I'm actually employed?"

Spike shook his head.  Well, that wasn't pathetic... 

"Hi, Xander. Or...or Spike, I guess, if you're there. It's me. Just wanted to remind you about the thing tonight. Eight o'clock, Giles' place. Be there or be...okay, bad choice of words for the X-man. You're young, and hip, and swingin'. Not square. No squareness. Round, all the way. Ah, Tara says to tell you that the Scooby Snacks were excellent, and I agree. She says if that's what you're bringing tonight, make sure there's an extra pan for her, and she'll do you a no-more-wrinkles spell for your shirts. See you, I guess, and, um, sorry about yesterday, Xan... just stupid Willow again. Tell her hey, whoever she is. Oh, I didn't just say that. Ignore me. Bye."

Willow. So…the little witch really did think Spike was a girl… well, that the lump Spike had made under the bedclothes was a girl. Being a reasonably small guy had a few bizarre advantages. Maybe a bit insulting, but it solved the annoying problem of 'Oops, vampire's buggering the boy, we'll have to stake him."



Not that the vampire actually was buggering the boy, which had been on his mind quite a bit. There really wasn't any way that Xander's first time wouldn't hurt. At least a little. Good hurt, or so it was for Spike in the same position, but did the little rotter of a chip know that? God knows, he didn't intend to harm Xander, but the road to the Hellmouth was paved with good intentions. The chip had gone off when he'd pointed a fake gun at Xander and Demon-bait, so it seemed to be basing itself on what he was thinking about rather than what he could actually do. He hadn't really been about to shoot either of them, though. Scare 'em a bit, yeah, but he'd scared humans by vamping out on them, in order to get some cash, and the chip hadn't gone off. Maybe because he knew he couldn't hurt them. It just kept turning round and round in his head.

He had been about to brain Xander with a spanner once, though, and the familiar blinding pain had flooded his skull in an instant. Straightforward application of technology. Not as if he was really trying to kill the blighter, just give him a hell of a headache. Which backfired nicely. Well, who was the Slayer's donut boy to tell off Spike, the Big Bad? Point out that he was, indeed, a kept man. Vampire rentboy. He'd had a bad case of 'shouldn't-want-you-but-do' for the puppydog even then, and having it unconsciously thrown up in his face by somebody in a pizza delivery uniform… vampire-enhanced-testosterone had taken over.

 And a fun time was had by all. Shrunk my clothes, ended up wearing donut boy's fashion castoffs… Decided I couldn't get any more pathetic if I were Xander Harris himself. Tried to dust myself, and fucked that up royally, too.  Xander and Willow had come through the door a split second before he would've landed on the stake, but he'd no illusions that they saved his life. No, he would've missed the heart. Staked himself through the liver and bled pig's blood all over the floor. It was just the way things had been going. Then they'd taken him under their bloody care, as if he was a lost mutt himself, and it all got to be a bit too much. Taunted and tormented them like an expert, he had, just to prove he could still do it. Still had some sort of bite.

And in the middle of a burned-out, bombed-out ruin of a high school, with the apocalypse fast approaching (again) and Vahrall demons alternating between beating hell out of them and trying to jump down the Hellmouth, Spike had got stuck under a falling beam. A familiar position, though not quite as painful as an entire organ loft, and he'd lain there for a few long seconds, waiting for the world to come to an end, or at least the building to fall in on him. Instead, without a moment's hesitation, Xander Harris had grabbed his arm and pulled him out. Helped him up, dragged him out of the collapsing room.

The pizza-boy he'd almost concussed with a plumber's tool, who'd made big noises about staking him or kicking his shiny white bum, hadn't paused at touching a vampire in game-face. The guy he'd called a tenth-grade loser had pulled him up as if he were a fallen friend, and half-carried him out of the library. If he had to be honest with himself, to avoid endless persecution from his own little mental Greek chorus, it was then. Right then, being carted along by this obnoxious human kid who for some reason still gave a damn about his safety, that he'd fallen. Hard and fast. No matter how long it had taken him to admit it.  Should've known. Everybody I love has a habit of dragging me out from under things. 

But now…the blasted chip. He could live with playing bottom indefinitely, really, if he had to. He'd no problem with it. If he had to choose, it was a toss-up, with maybe a little weight in that direction anyhow.  Not so much as I like to play bottom in pain-games, though, eh? Just have to take turns, there, assuming that sort of thing's even on, chip-wise. If not, oh no. Shock, horror. Selfish vampire bastard gets to get his arse smacked all the time, and poor human's stuck dishing it out…  His eyes lit up a bit at the thought. Which still sent him stumbling back to the damned chip.

He wanted to be inside the boy. At least once. It wasn't about ownership, or any of that macho bollocks. He knew damned well this was just a new…whatever, for Xander. Something he'd play at until he came to his senses. Discovering he liked men, yeah, great. Unlikely to change his mind on that score, if his bashful enthusiasm was any indication. Spinning out that experiment with Spike, though…  Just got lucky, didn't I. Well, lucky in that he wants me. Unlucky in that I've gone and fallen head-first with him.  He wanted to pretend he belonged there. Just for a little while. That they belonged to each other. To see if he could repeat the feeling he'd had that first time, of coming home.

Then there was also the non-nancy-boy fact that he suspected Xander didn't have a clue how fucking good it could be, being taken. Considering Xander's current nervousness on that score, the overprotective side of the vampire half-wondered if there'd been a bad experience in that direction. Spike really didn't think so, though he had to hit the animal part of his demon on the head with that plumber's spanner and snap 'down, boy' at it... That was a bit of macho bollocks, the assumption that because his boy had been broken into pieces and put back together wrong, it had to have been something physical. He was reasonably sure Xander was untouched, in the literal sense.

Chip, chip, soddin' Riley Finn and his mad scientists, chip, chip chip…




He'd shaken his head, tried to laugh it off for the moment. Back to prowling for the good stuff. Hit the 'rewind' button on the answering machine, then thought better of it.  S'pose he'll want to hear the little witch babbling at him. Best let it play back to the end and leave it.  He pressed 'play', pulled down another box from the shelf next to the phone, and waited for another amusing round of Willowspeak. It wasn't what he got.

"Xander… hi, it's me. Anya. Right, you knew that. I want to… Look, I don't know how to say this. I came into this thing thinking it was about interlocking parts, and they do fit together pretty well. You really are a Viking in the sack-- I wasn't just stroking your ego. But… I can't do this. I just can't. Not anymore. I'm sorry. You don't love me, you know. Or you're not in love with me, or whatever it is guys say this century to break it off and rip a girl's heart out and stomp on it 'til it's all gristle and blood. Sorry, bad image. Just pretend I've never actually done that to a guy, and you'll be fine. I'm cutting you off at the pass, because I don't want you to do that to me. I…hate this cliché, but I want to stay friends with you, and I think there'd be a problem with that if I were always looking for creative ways to emasculate you. Oh, that didn't come out right either, but…this. Us. I can't do it anymore. We're not gonna grow old together. It isn't me…" Beeeep.

"Monday, June twelfth, nine-forty a.m." the electronic voice intoned, but Spike was past hearing. He was in that white-hot place where only real, honest, ball-bashing hatred could take him. Not the sort he'd had for Angelus, mixed up with a twisted love and loss and jealousy, but the pure, good, rip their guts out and watch 'em steaming kind.

 On the answering machine ? On the fucking answering machine? Poxy little demon bitch, I'll eat her innards for breakfast and salt her eyes like boiled eggs. At least Dru had the common courtesy to say it to my face. Friends? And the boy's so ego-bashed he's bought into it? Sleep with a vengeance demon, you obviously deserve all you get? I'll…fucking little slag. Manipulative whore. 'It's not me?' What the fuck does that mean? I'll feed her pretty bits to the hyenas at the zoo, and save the rest for bin-liners. I'll… 

Not touch one hair on her rotted-out head, because she was physically human, and… chip. Chip, chip, bloody fucking rotten chip, chip, chip. That was where he pretty much lost it, and the only things running through his brain were lightning, thunder, and the sincere desire to rip someone's head off and spit down her neck. The real demon was loose, the predator in a blood-rage, and it wasn't going to even let him think. It was a deadly silent sort of rage, except for the roaring, and it festered very nicely.



Half a mile away from Giles' place, and not one word further into anything resembling a conversation, Xander pulled the car to the side of a residential street and threw the brake, none too gently. He looked over at Spike, who had gotten lost somewhere, but seemed to be jolted back to Planet Earth by the sudden stop.

"Okay, talk. Say something witty and entertaining, or I press the ejector-seat button right now."

Spike grimaced. "Fresh out."

"Fine. Say something dark and brooding, and I'll give Angel a call and tell him his boy's finally going into the family business." Spike shot him a deadly glare for that one, but didn't answer.

"If you don't want to do this, I understand, Spike. You're not exactly walking into a warmed-up crowd tonight. I get that. You wanna go home, okay. We'll go home."

"That's not a home; it's a grave that somebody forgot to put a headstone on."

Neat. Words of more than one syllable, depressive though they might be. Spike and his amazing menagerie of multiple personalities. Who's coming out tonight, folks? William the Bloody? William the stock analyst? William the suicidal?

"I should introduce you to Principal Snyder. No, wait, he's dead. But then, so are you. You could do lunch and discuss my dreary home-life." No reaction. " Are you having a 'Hate myself 'cause I'm fucking Xander and I'm pretty sure this makes me not only gay, but extremely stupid…' moment? " He almost snickered at the idea, since whatever Spike was, he'd obviously been doing it for over a century, and he couldn't see the vampire having an identity crisis, anyway… but he was hoping for a laugh.

He didn't get one. "No."

"Okay…so much for humor as a defense mechanism…Do you want to go to Giles' place or not?"

Spike whipped his head around and fixed Xander with a knife-like stare. His eyes were so icy, the blue was almost white.

"Oh yeah. I want to do this." The growl in his voice was more than enough for Xander to back off. Demon-man-animal territory thing. The part of Xander that remembered what it was like to smell blood on the wind wasn't about to challenge this one.

"Great. Let's rock and roll." Spike snorted at that, and Xander shrugged, pulling the car onto the road again.



They walked in silence through the courtyard and up to Giles' door, Spike leading the way, duster over his shoulder again.

Knock. Knock. How polite. The door opened after a few seconds, to reveal Buffy, in jeans and a sleeveless orange tank top, a smile on her face. Until she saw Spike. Then it was all confusion, annoyance, okay, whatever.

"Spike," she frowned. "You're looking quite...bleached, this evening."

"You an' all, Slayer. Bulimic, too. Here-- have some empty calories." Spike shoved the grocery bag into her hands, and pushed past her into the well-lit living room. She studied it intently for a moment, then looked at Xander, telegraphing 'Why the hell did you bring him ?' without uttering a word. He shrugged helplessly, and she muttered, "Great. Vampire treats and research parties. Just like old times." A few silent seconds of staring at him later, she turned and walked though the door. He followed her in, glancing about to see where Spike had chosen to sit.

Smack dab in the middle of the sofa, legs spread in his usual maybe-casual sprawl. Right next to a nervous-looking Anya, who'd lightened her hair yet again, and was cringing away from the arm that Spike had thrown haphazardly over the sofa's back. Willow sat at the other end, Tara on the floor at her feet, both of them happily sniffing scented markers.

"Hey, blueberry. Here, smell!" Tara waved a navy blue marker in the air near Willow's face, and the redhead leaned down to sniff.

"D'you mind?" Spike said sharply. "Some of us 'ave sensitive noses, witch." He pushed the marker away with a disgusted scowl. Tara pulled it back, looking hurt and guilty at the same time, letting her ashy hair fall over her face.

"Some of us have sensitive stomachs, too, but nobody tossed their cookies when you walked in, so play nice, Spike," Buffy shot at him from the living room side of the kitchen counter, where she had set the bag down and was unrolling it. Standing in the doorway still, Xander could see Giles through the cut-out, putting a tray of cookie-dough dollops into the oven. "Oh, Spike. Blood. How thoughtful. But I didn't get you anything," she added, holding up a plastic blood-bag.

Xander walked all the way in, passed Spike's duster where it hung on the hall-tree, and took the blood from her. "Sorry. Food's underneath." He opened the fridge and tossed the bag into the freezer section. When he'd closed the door, Giles was looking at him with a raised eyebrow.

"You did say he could come," Xander said half-apologetically. "He didn't quite do cartwheels, but he's here."

"Oh yeah. Mature Slayer points. I'm thinking I've got Faith beat hands down by the time this night is over, jail or no jail," Buffy sighed. Xander looked out into the living room, trying to keep a close eye on whatever Spike was up to. In this mood, it couldn't be good, and he was still at a complete loss as to what had turned his newfound lover back into a shark on land.

"So," Spike said at last, leaning in towards Anya, ignoring the two witches entirely. "Anyanka. How's tricks?"



Anya wasn't happy. Which was possibly the biggest understatement since the ghost of Anne Boleyn had floated up to her in the Tower of London, head sniffling from underneath her arm, and remarked that she had a sore throat. Anyanka didn't usually do favors for the already-dead, but given the way Fat Henry ended up treating six wives, she had felt perfectly justified in making sure his spirit stayed trapped on the mortal plane when he died. Long enough to see Anne's daughter take his throne, and make a better king than he ever had, body of a weak and feeble woman or not.

Here she was, sitting in the middle of Giles' living room, with Xander's closest friends, trying not to look too hard at him for fear she'd jump on him then and there and take it all back. Every completely accurate word of it, just so she could be with him again, in whatever way he'd let her, and pretend it was her he loved. She was a woman, a strong woman, and she'd been a woman for a long time. She hadn't been a girl for all that long, though, and it hurt. And to make matters exponentially worse, who should plop down and throw his arm ever-so-casually around her shoulder but Spike.

The last time they'd been sitting this closely, they'd been having a beer together and talking about how much easier it would've been if they could just solve all their romantic problems in the good old-fashioned demonic way. Stake, torch, eviscerate. Neither of them really had the heart, but it had been fun to kick back and know there wasn't any unfathomable human motive behind the conversation, just two downtrodden creatures of the night, or ex-creatures, bitching about how much life and love sucked.

There was none of that relaxation now. She'd tortured enough men, played cat-and-mouse games with enough squeaking little mortals, to know a predator when she sat next to one, and to recognize when she was the intended prey. What did I do to him ? Of all the people in this room who should be gutting me with their eyes, why Spike? Willow never did like me to begin with, for the whole vampire-her thing. Which she needs to get over. Buffy takes care of her own, when she doesn't have her head stuck up Riley's ass. Giles thinks I'm an annoying pest. Tara... well, no idea, but I can't see why any of them would welcome me with open arms after I essentially dumped their best friend in mid-relationship. But they have, or at least they haven't said anything mean to me tonight. So why is Spike of all people acting like I'm filet mignon, extra-rare?

It wasn't just hunger, which she knew he couldn't do anything about anyway. It was hate. Some kind of cold, calculating rage, as if he'd channeled every bit of energy in that hyperactive frame into the fingers that were gently brushing the top of her spine. That close to reaching out and snapping it. She could practically feel the sparks crackling over the hairs on the nape of her neck. Shouldn't she be the one hating Spike? But all she felt were stabs of the strange fear unique to intelligent prey--what did I do, how do I get out of this…run--no, can't run…

"How's tricks?" she heard him purr in a deadly voice, sexy as hell if you weren't scared shitless of him, which, at the moment, she was.



Spike waited for an answer. Actually, the hellspawn in control of him didn't give a shit what the answer was, or if it came. It knew the demon bitch was squirming under his feather-light touch at the back of her neck, and that made the answering demon within him roar in silent pleasure. Good. Let her be afraid.

 You don't hurt what's mine, you little slit. You think I can't hurt you 'cos I can't rip your throat open and feast on your vinegary old blood? You don't know me well enough yet, but you will.  Which had Spike, what you might call 'Spike', anyway, the guy who had finally admitted to himself that he was a complete lunatic, and was in love with Xander Harris, bucking like mad trying to shake off the wild presence in his mind that held him down.  Don't fuckin' do this! You want him to hate me? Let me go! 

"Fine, Spike," she answered in a surprisingly collected voice.

He knew he was out of control. The personality knew, somewhere behind the raging demon, that he was treading a fine line between playing with the bitch's head and totally ruining anything he had with Xander. The part of him that just wanted to take Xander and get the hell out of there, go somewhere and make love to him until they both fell exhausted to the floor……couldn't do a flamin' thing. He couldn't stop it.  Crap. Is this what Peaches feels like? Always playing tug-o-war with the demon? I thought it was just me an' the smartarse voices in here, that I was the demon. But this… 

He couldn't turn around and be the laid-back, half-amused, half-protective, totally besotted fool that he'd been all weekend. He was literally paralyzed. That part of him wanted to explain to Xander what had been pissing him off, just leave so he didn't have to face the bloody Scooby Club who'd opened their door to him again... just…turn tail and run. Get Anya alone in a dark alley and verbally pound some what-for into her, but not this  You-don't-hurt-what's-mine, bitch…  hunting game that was spiraling further and further out of his control.

But it was out of his hands. The demonic animal was on top, clever little bugger that it was, just skimming his brain for the memories of how to twist somebody up without actually touching them. What was him was pretty much trapped in his head, looking on. In horror. In delight. In horror at his delight, as his mouth pushed its luck for all it was worth.

"Been working on that powers thing? Y'know, see if you can get your little trinket back? Cos' I'd love to watch what you can do when you really try," he commented casually. She flicked a glance at him. Didn't know how to read him. She would, given time.

"I think it's pretty much gone. Seeing as Giles smashed it to bits, and the one time I tried to get it back, they got a vamped-out version of Willow instead." Resigned. So she'd decided she'd have to eviscerate Xander the human way. Well, two could play at that game.

"Yeah, must've been a blast. Hey, Red..." he said, turning his head to the witch who sat at the far end of the sofa, still trading scented markers with her girlfriend, "how'd you like seeing yourself as a vamp? Give you any ideas? Cos', you an' me, we could really tear this town apart. Bet you'd have the sweetest little fangs..." The memory passed physically across her face like a shadowy ripple, and the blonde witch was staring at her with half-lidded eyes.

Great. His demonic side was going after the rest of them, too. Just on general principles. Zap both witches with one blow, there-- Willow with the fear of being what he was, what she had seen herself be, Tara with the knowledge that her lover had the capability of becoming a monster.  Sunshine, everybody does. Some of us just have less control. Listen, up there, can't you leave Red alone? I like Red. She baked me cookies. 



Morning after he'd helped them rescue Wolf-Boy with a little inside information from Adam, he'd been awakened from his somewhat stiff sleep atop a concrete bier by a faint knocking at the door of his crypt. As he'd sat up and pushed his duster off him, about to see who the hell was knocking him up in what was essentially his middle-of-the-night, Willow had slipped through the doorway, being careful not to let the sunlight stream in.

"Red? What the hell?"

"Sorry…I just wanted to thank you. For, y'know. With Oz."

"Yeah, well, Giles already paid me, so you can get your skinny arse out of here and let me sleep, witch," he'd growled, sleepy and confused.

"Oh, this isn't money. Just cookies. Also probably a little leftover guilt from that "my will be done" spell, which I said I wasn't ever going to mention again, so, um…. Thanks. Bye now." She set a plate on the tomb nearest the door, and slipped out as quickly as she'd entered.

Groggily, he slid down from his makeshift bed and shuffled over to it. Chocolate chip. Still-warm chocolate chip.

 Oh yeah, no guilt there. There I was already in bed with Spare-Parts-Guy (metaphorically speaking, because physically… as Xander would say, eew…) and the witch bakes me a plate of biscuits… Look, you mindless bag of hormones and hellfire, if you won't let me back in charge, at least leave off tormenting the sprogs. I don't need the headache. Don't need to get staked, either.  All he got was an answering growl from within his own brain.



Xander had moved to the chair in the corner, and was watching Spike with slitted eyes. His lover was almost snuggling up to Anya, but there was something nasty in it, and there wasn't any of the usual Spike's-just-being-annoying lilt to his voice as he ragged on Willow about her vampy-self. What-- was he just collecting ammunition, yesterday? I don't need this. Don't need not to know from day to day if I'm sleeping with a monster or a man. I should know. He's a monster. He never tried to say he wasn't. But...why do I keep on trying to trust him? Just because he told me I can?

Buffy lifted the four pans of treats from the bottom of the grocery bag, and as she sniffed, her eyes got big. "Treats! Chocolate! Gooey stuff! Xander, I love you with every Slayery fiber of my being."

"Yeah," Spike called over his shoulder from the sofa. "Peanut butter, too. Full of protein. Figured since soldier-boy's gone home to mum for a while, you weren't gettin' your recommended daily requirement."

That got everybody in the room staring at Spike. Crude he might be when attempting to piss them off, but he'd never gone quite that far before.

"Spike-- " Buffy started to speak, but Giles cut her off, leaning over the countertop and glaring at Spike in full grown-up Ripper-mode. Don't fuck with my kids, mister. God, how Xander loved it when Giles got like that, even though it was always in the middle of some catastrophe or other, so he didn't get to savor it. Protective, like Giles cared more about them than he did his own safety, or his damn British dignity, or anything else. Wild, like a barely tamed animal protecting its family-- for Buffy, for Willow, and for him. For Xander. The way his own father never had been, except maybe at him, instead of for.

"Spike, shut your mouth or leave. Your choice. For now." The words were delivered with chilling simplicity and straightforward menace-- bookish old Rupert was nowhere in sight.

"What," drawled the vampire, getting into it now. Ripper didn't scare him? What the hell was he on? "Virgin ears? All virgins in the room please raise their hands." When nobody moved, he smirked. "I rest my case."

C'mon, Spike. Don't do this. Whatever you're trying to do, don't make 'em hate you. Don't make me have to choose between you and my friends. Because I'm way too damn afraid I'd choose you, and then where would we all be?

Spike didn't say anything further, though, so Buffy went back to drooling over the Scooby Snacks, and casting murderous glances at the back of Spike's head every so often. When she made as if to grab a butter knife from the counter, Giles reached through and smacked her hand lightly. Rupert the librarian was back, at least for the moment.

"Not before dinner, please." Nice to know Willow had learned her mommyness from an approved source.

"When's dinner? " Xander asked, looking for a distraction, and honestly hungry. He hadn't eaten lunch, in the insanity that had prevailed at the supermarket today.

"As soon as the pizzas get here…" Giles said slowly.

"And that would be…."

"About half an hour after you order them…" the ex-Watcher muttered with a rueful grin. "Well, I always get something wrong when I phone it in, don't I. They're on me, just make the call and stop laughing at me."

Xander wasn't laughing. Not when he felt like he had to babysit Spike. Or Anya, or somebody.

Dialing their usual pizza place, he was greeted by a familiar, friendly voice, and responded in kind. "Hey, Jason. Xander Harris. " Yet another Sunnydale High survivor, and a former co-worker, during Xander's brief tenure as pizza-guy before the demise of Rust-Bucket Number Two had put a stop to that career path.

"Hey. Party time? 'Cause it's pretty slow around here. You might get your stuff in twenty if it's not too complicated."

Xander looked around the room. He knew, by now. They all knew, by now. Scooby pizza traditions. "Usual. Large works, large pep, large veggie, three orders of breadsticks…" He watched Spike make little spider-motions with his fingers, a few inches away from the back of Anya's neck, and noticed that Anya was cringing, even though Spike wasn't actually touching her. Right. Be nice to the psychotic dead guy, Xander, and maybe he'll learn some manners.

"Oh, no garlic butter." There was silence on the other end of the line. Jase Montgomery had been one of the front-line defenders in the graduation war. He'd seen enough to blow even the coolest mind, and he'd been together enough not to sweep it under the carpet of his memory, like most of the population of Sunnydale.

"Y'know, delivery guys have a habit of not coming back from 'no garlic butter' orders," Jason said tentatively.

Xander laughed, and tried not to make it sound as nervous as he felt. "No, man, safe and sound, I guarantee it. Just got a guest with an allergy." Yeah, exactly the same kind of allergy you're thinkin'. But he's reasonably harmless. Ah… right?

The total was staggering, as usual, but when he mouthed it at Giles, he just got an un-surprised nod.



"No garlic butter?" Willow asked in pretended shock, and a bit of actual surprise. "You practically drink that stuff."

Xander tilted his head toward Spike. "Some of us have sensitive noses." Making Xander-Snotty-Face, the one she'd recognized since kindergarten.

"Yeah, well…some of us are acting like big macho poopheads and need to get our sensitive noses out of our cold, dead butts," she replied, kicking Spike gently on the leg. He turned to her with an incredulous glare, and she glared right back. "What? Don't be mean to my girlfriend and I won't beat you up. Seems like a fair exchange to me." She waved a licorice-scented marker within a few inches of his nose.

He grabbed it on the second pass, and pulled it from her fingers with a hard twist. Not enough to hurt, just to startle her. Then he made a gesture with it that could only be interpreted as… well, it sometimes ended with 'and the horse you rode in on,' and handed it smoothly back to her.

"Please don't," he added, with a flabbergasting amount of civility.

What the heck? 'Kay, back off from the PMS-ing vampire… She scooted back into the corner of the couch.



 Thank you…  Spike muttered to the demonic animal in control of him.  Don't suppose you'd get the hell down back where you belong and let me have the wheel again, eh?  Grrr. No, apparently not.

"Twenty minutes, if we're lucky," Xander announced, hanging up the phone and returning to his seat. "So how does this thing work?"

Tara rose from the floor and dragged a whiteboard from where it was leaning against a bookcase, setting it up in front of the fireplace. It was covered, like a traditional Jeopardy gameboard, with squares that had point values scrawled on them in what Spike assumed was scented marker. In this case, the squares were light blue construction paper.

"I get to be Alex," she said, smiling. "We were gonna let Giles play by himself, since he's the font of all knowledge, and have everybody else pair up, but since S…Spike's here, I guess we've got even teams. You… are playing, right?" she asked Spike, making about the first words she'd ever said directly to him, come to think of it. Unless 'She is a wiz' , defending Red's computer skills in a tense moment, actually counted.

 Oh, hell. Look at 'er. Another broken one. Just as bloody bruised as the boy. Why, oh why, must I be surrounded by puppy-children!  Spike broke eye contact, lest the furious energy that was running his body decided to co-opt his mind again and try digging at the blonde. At least he managed that much control.

"Oh, yeah. Team Demon all the way, right, luv?" His body and his demon both grabbed Anya pseudo-playfully and pulled her close to him in a tight hug. More squirming.

Xander was watching him, getting more and more upset. He could see it, and what he wanted most was to get up, save the demon-girl for a late-night bitch-out some other time, and drag Xander away somewhere to kiss all that hurt and confusion off his face.  Because he's mine, for now, and sod that macho crap.  But no such bloody luck. Just the nasty-good feeling of Anya's skin crawling, and a low rumble from his demonic alter-ego.

"I'm all yours, Xander," Willow added. "If you want me."

 And didn't that have the ring of history to it. Yeah, well, me too, witch. If I could manage to swim back up to the surface, anyway. 

'So we have Slayer/Watcher-team, Demon-team, and Sunnydale Home-team…" Buffy offered, slipping down from her counter-stool and dragging a chair over to the open area just to the right of Anya's end of the sofa.

"And the point of this little bonding-exercise?" Spike sniggered to no one in particular.

"Pick each other's brains about demonic lore and history, without there having to be a Big, Bad and Ugly breathing down our necks," Willow replied.

"Besides Spike, that is," the Slayer chipped in.




What the hell is he doing here? Buffy wondered for about the fiftieth time so far tonight. I mean, I get why Xander brought him, sort of. He's got this weird little empathy thing going on-- poor pathetic Spike, dumped by his girl and turned into a fluffy bunny. Poor pathetic Xander, dumped by his girl and always was a fluffy bunny… Not that Xander was really pathetic, but he thought he was, and they hadn't done a heck of a lot to correct that assumption this last year.

But what was Spike doing here? Why did he come? Just to take potshots at them? He could do that perfectly well whenever they met up by accident, like last night at the old drive-in. She never did track down whatever it was that had screamed, and she half-suspected Spike's repulsive insinuations about it being horny teens hiding out in the bushes were true. Not that the suggestion of watching them, with Spike, while sharing a bag of popcorn, didn't turn her stomach, but he had an annoying habit of being right.

She couldn't see him voluntarily showing up for what was essentially a Scooby party. In fact, if Spike had a picture of Hell in his overbleached head, she'd bet it involved being locked in a room with the Scooby Gang and a chip in his head for the rest of eternity. Unless he really was as lonely as he pretended not to be. If he was… she groaned, mentally. I only have room in my life for one broody vampire, and I can't even deal with him unless he's in another city. Spike works just fine as an admittedly not-bad-looking ass to kick, and somebody to take out my verbal frustrations on, but do I actually have to feel sorry for him, too?

Not if he kept acting the way he had been tonight, she decided. Every Slayer instinct in her was screaming that there was a vampire in the middle of the room whose kill-instinct was so close to the surface he might as well be wearing a nametag that said "Hi, I'm Spike. I'm gonna eat you now." Chip, yeah, so he couldn't, but he seemed to be doing his best to sink the fangs in using just his eyes and voice, and she hadn't sensed this much testosterone poisoning in the air since she'd had Angel and Riley in the same room.

"Research. Fun. Same sentence. Tuesday night at the old corral just ain't the same anymore…" she added, grinning at Willow. Somebody's gotta get this party going. Dead. Dead. Deadski. Deader than Spike.



Willow pulled a Wal-Mart bag from the floor next to the sofa, and Xander leaned over to peer inside. Ooh…toys… He recognized bright colors when he saw them, and was still pretty much a sucker for anything that came out of the ten aisles between the bikes and the backyard swingsets…. Well, except for the Barbies. No, wait, I guess kidnapping them and holding them for ransom does technically mean I played with Barbies as a child. And just see what it's done to me. 'Xander,' said his mental Mom-voice, '…little boys who play with Barbies grow up to have semi-kinky sex with male vampires…'

Willow pulled out… a pile of children's bicycle horns. Six of them. "Not exactly state of the art buzzers, but at least Xander can have fun pretending he's Harpo Marx…" she explained, passing them around.

Giles moseyed over from the kitchen after pulling out an unfairly good-smelling tray of cookies from the oven and putting them aside to be dammit eaten later. He accepted his horn with a resigned smile, pulling up one of the counter-stools behind the back of the sofa.

Spike honked his experimentally, and looked a bit disgusted with the pitiful squeak that came out.

"Right, anybody want to trade? This thing sounds like Harris trying to chat up a bird."

Even Xander had to grin at that one. Relax, Xander. He's just being Spike. Plus the whole point is for them not to figure out that something's up between us, so… right, rag on me all you want. But Spike hadn't been just being Spike, a few minutes ago, and the tension was still swirling.

"Hey!" Anya growled at Spike. "Xander's got some great lines. Like…" And all was silence, as they waited for her to come up with something. Finally she shrugged. "Okay, I kind of didn't give him the chance to use any on me. So sue me."

"Ahem…" Giles prompted. "If we could tear the discussion away from Xander's dating techniques, however fascinating they might be…"

"Right…" Tara jumped in. "Basic Jeopardy scoring, but each team member answers individually and then we add the scores together-- no kibitzing. Since we don't have a computer scoring system…"

"We could've, but Giles wouldn't spring for three new monitors, a server, light pens…" Willow said mock-sulkily.

"Since we don't have a computer scoring system…" Tara shot a stern look at Willow… "each of these is worth a hundred points." She pulled out another Wally-world bag from the floor behind Willow, and Xander's eyes lit up as she dumped four huge bags of Hershey's Kisses into a large bowl.

"No eating your scores, either. Not until afterwards, anyway!"




Fifteen minutes later, they were all still fairly close to even, with Spike and Anya actually a few points ahead. It made sense, two demons, or one demon and an ex-demon, having a bit of an edge. Anya had eleven hundred years worth of names to drop, and Spike seemed to possess a prodigious memory for trivia. Giles was a bit miffed, really. He'd rather thought it would come down to a battle of memories between Willow and himself, with Buffy, Xander, and Anya cheering from the sidelines.

Spike's presence seemed to be warping the interplay between the group, but Giles couldn't entirely suss out how. He's taken a step back from actively trying to offend everyone in the room, at least, and seems to be confining his little jiggery-pokery to Anya. Which made Giles breathe a tad easier, since it wasn't one of his children whom the vampire was silently menacing. Not that he was happy about it at all, but the sharp-tongued ex-demon could take care of herself quite well, without the help of a semi-retired ex-Watcher.



"I'll take 'Possession' for five hundred, Alex…" Spike said disdainfully. "Vanna, as well, actually…" he added as Tara removed the construction paper covering the answer. "Well, you've the legs for it, I'm guessin'. If anybody's ever seen 'em, under those bloody granny-skirts."

"I've seen 'em, and yes she does, and shut up, Spike." Willow muttered, kicking him again.

He and the demon had reached a sort of unwilling compromise. It was letting him play, as long as he let it make Anya twitch with every apparently friendly tap on the shoulder or finger run slowly across the back of her neck. And it was all with the understanding that sooner or later tonight, it was going to back her into a corner and tear merry hell out of her the only way it could: emotionally. He fully agreed that Anya had…something…coming to her. He just didn't want to be in the middle of a showdown with him on the sharp end of a pointy stick, and he didn't want the bestial part of his being to do something that Xander would find unforgivable, either. It wasn't the best offer, but at least he wasn't quite stuck at the bottom of his mind, howling up at it to stop fucking about with his life.

Which, in a nutshell, meant that he'd earned that particular Willow-punishment all by himself.  What? Blondie's cute, in that negative-of-Xander sort of way. Worth a few wolf-whistles.  He was still Spike, after all. There was only so much he could stand before he had to mess about with somebody. There was as vast a difference, however, between the way he usually baited the Slayerettes, and what the demon had been doing, (was still doing to Anya) as there was between the blonde witch and Alex Trebek.

It hadn't been so much what he was saying (except for the comment to the Slayer about protein, which he'd been wanting to make for a while now, just not in the middle of a large group of people who knew how to wield a stake) as it was the pure evil that had accompanied each little jab-and-poke.  I'm bad, fine. But I don't usually stalk about with 'I'm going to suck you into Hell and feast on your brains on the way down' blarin' behind me as my theme song. That was Peaches' game, back when he was on his kick to rip the Slayer a new one. Way too over-the-top for me. 

"The slime-trail left by an Ethros demon…" Tara read off.

Spike-the-demon leaned close into Anya's ear and whispered sweetly, "Somebody who dumps their boyfriend by leaving a message on his answering machine…"

Giles honked his horn. "What is Plakticine…" he answered, a bit boredly. Spike-the-undead-guy agreed. That was a five hundred dollar question? Still, it got Team Slayer five pieces of chocolate that he'd much rather have in his own pile.

And Anya was staring at him. What had he… oh, shit.  Nice going, Plakticine-for-brains!  he shouted at his demonic driver.  Very subtle! 'Cos now she'll never figure out I've got feelings for the boy. 



The first half of the game ended with Willow and Xander beating Spike and Anya by two hundred points, and Team Slayer trailing by a thousand. The demonic duo might well have been in the lead, if Spike's diabolically gentle whisper hadn't thrown Anya into a complete state of shock for the next ten minutes.

Xander told him about that? Spike? It had probably been the most cowardly thing she'd done in her more-than-a-millennium on this planet, leaving that message for Xander. But she hadn't thought she could say it to his face. She fully believed, still, that if she'd tried to look at him while telling him she needed to leave him for…whoever's good it was…that she'd never have been able to get the words out. She would have shut up, curled into his arms, and let him believe that he loved her, because he'd never been with somebody he actually was in love with, and so he didn't know the difference.

In a way, breaking up with Xander had been the bravest thing she'd ever done, as well, because she had let go of something she didn't know if she'd ever find again. Partially so they wouldn't go through something horrible and hateful a month or a year or five years down the road, and partially because she wanted to see him happy. With somebody he really did love. She'd had him on her mind since their joke of a senior prom, and especially since he'd told her off before graduation about her own lack of maturity in assuming men just wanted sex. Or at least that he did. She'd set out to prove him wrong, and somehow proven him more right than she could imagine, as sex had become dating, had become friendship… had become caring about each other. Had become love, but only on her part.

So Anyanka the mistress of vengeance, and, as Xander had pointed out, the learning plateau, had thought she'd learned something new. How to be unselfish. But… if Xander had told Spike about her breakup-via-Ma-Bell, was he more upset than she imagined? More upset than he seemed when they'd talked over shopping carts about humor biting her in the ass? Hurt enough to tell a guy he thought he hated about how much she'd ripped him apart? Hell. Nothing made any sense. What was Spike's interest in all this? Why did he seem to want to hurt her?

Why couldn't being a human be as simple as being a demon? Fix everything with a wave of your power center and a cheery little drawing-and-quartering. When the pizzas arrived, she took the opportunity to slip out from under Spike's arm, and head for Giles' bathroom. The one with the nice tile.

"Don't get lost, luv," Spike called after her, the threat inherent in his voice that he might very well come in there after her if she didn't come back out. "There's a mirror in there, after all, and we wouldn't want you getting transfixed."



Xander went to the door with Giles to get the pizzas, taking the boxes as Giles pulled the appropriate amount out of his wallet, and paid with a shrug. Doing the math, and recognizing the delivery guy as Teddy Holmes, one of his more desperately broke former co-workers, Xander fished a ten out of his pocket, and slipped it to the poor guy for an extra tip. Right about then, Anya made a break for the bathroom, and Spike said something that would've just been snotty, if it hadn't been so full of male vampire pissed-off territorial what-the-hell bullshit that it made Xander cringe to even hear that voice. The voice that had made him cringe in ways that he'd enjoyed a hell of a lot more, during the last three days.

That is it. That is fucking well…it. I can't take this crap anymore. He won't answer me, I don't know what the hell I did, or what bit him in the ass when I wasn't looking, and I can't deal with this. Spike, what are you doing… What am I doing…

"Giles…" he said softly as they stood near the just-closed door. "This is gonna sound completely nuts…"

The Englishman looked at him with concern while folding his wallet again and tucking it into the pocket of his jeans. "In comparison to your usual state of mind, or just to those of us who don't have chocolate and caffeine running through our veins instead of blood? What's wrong?"

"Can I stay here tonight?" He hadn't known he was going to ask until the words came out of his mouth, but it suddenly seemed right. Dealing with whatever Spike was doing…going home with the predatory stranger he'd thought he was getting to know… it all seemed like too much.

"Er…well, of course you can, if you need to, but why?" asked Giles with a puzzled frown.

"I don't know what the hell's up with Spike, and I really don't want to spend the evening alone in the Basement of Doom with him and whatever crawled up his… well, you get the point. Vampire-on-the-rag isn't my idea of Must-See TV." He reached out with his free hand and spun the globe around distractedly, ending up with his finger in the middle of Ireland.

"Xander, you're welcome to stay. But it is your flat--why don't you just tell him to leave? I agree, his behavior's been abominable this evening, and if that's what he's been like for the last week, I can't imagine why you haven't booted him out before now." Giles put out an arm to take some of the pizza boxes, and Xander handed over the top two.

"No. He hasn't. He's just been… the annoying Spike we all know and hate. I don't know what this is, just that it's some kind of screwed-up alpha-male scent-marking thing that I don't want to get into the middle of, even if I knew where the middle was. I'm not about to try and kick him out right now, 'cause I don't have any idea what's going through that dead, bleached head of his. I just…don't want to be around him, at the moment."

"Well, I can understand that much. I'm not exactly bursting with pride to admit we were born on the same island, given tonight's…whatever it is he's up to. Yes, fine, you're always welcome. You know that."

Xander tapped his fingers on his stack of pizza boxes, and looked at the floor.

"You do know that, don't you?" Giles asked quietly.

"Guess I do now." And he wondered if he'd ever get up the courage to tell Giles the things he'd been thinking at the top of his basement stairs, as he made his list of final goodbyes when he thought Spike was going to rip his throat out. Hey, maybe that's the plan for tonight, instead. That Giles was… the closest thing to a dad he'd come across. Which didn't sound nearly as good as what he really meant.

But…Spike. The damnedest thing was, he still trusted Spike. The guy who'd held him as he fell asleep last night. He just wasn't entirely sure who the hell was occupying that body at the moment.



Anya finally decided she'd hidden in the bathroom for long enough when she'd counted the tiles three times and come up with three different totals. She still didn't have any answers, but she'd managed to work up a nice load of guilt. She knew Xander wasn't in love with her, but she also knew from experience that you could be torn to pieces by people you weren't in love with. Witness Xander lying in bed next to her, staring at the ceiling, thinking his best friends wanted him out of their lives because he was completely useless.

What did I do? Just what the hell did I do to him?

She opened the door, intending to pull Xander aside and… ask him, she supposed, if he was okay. If he'd been lying when he said he didn't hate her. Something. She didn't really get the chance. When she looked up from the tiles to move through the open door, the space was filled by five-feet, ten inches of bleached-blond vampire. Blue eyes cold as a bloodless corpse, and boring holes straight into her.

"Need any help? Spike asked conversationally.

She'd had just about enough of him, predator or not. I was a demon eight hundred years before anybody ever thought of naming their kid William the Bloody, dammit. I can take you if I have to. "What do you want, Spike? Really?"

"Just thought I'd get a few tips from an expert. I've decided I really should go off an' do that little vengeance project we were talkin' about. Y'know, where I stake Dru? Only that seemed a little too easy, somehow, and I'm running fresh out of creative methods of torture. Caught your gig on the boy's answering machine, and…what can I say. I'm not worthy. You're honestly the best. I thought you meant you didn't want to eviscerate him, and here you were just workin' up to something really…special."

All this in a voice so low and smooth you could have spread it on toast and eaten it, although if you did, you'd die pretty quickly from the strychnine laced into every syllable.



"You're the one who told me to…" she whispered back. "So why do you care what I've done to him?" She was on the edge of tears, and both Spike and the demon were waiting for that one sweet little line that would put her over. Spike more so he could get the hell out of there, the demon so it could revel in the carnage.

"Yeah, well. I was having a bad day. What can I say."  A bad day that started with a dream about your damned boyfriend, and a hard-on I couldn't get rid of until I'd spent half an hour jerking off in my crypt while picturing him spread-out naked in a double-bed with chocolate sauce dribbled all over him. 

"I thought, though, the really brilliant part…" he continued, or rather, the animal that had once again taken complete control continued… "was that last bit about 'It isn't me…' Y'know, like you'd finally just figured out he didn't coordinate with your new hairdo. How'd you ever come up with that? 'Cos.. I must say, I'm impressed. "



It isn't me you love. That's what she'd been about to say, when the machine had cut her off, and she'd left it there. Thinking Murphy's Law was telling her something, and she'd said enough. Thinking it was just too much for her to try to tell Xander. What she'd heard him say, what she was pretty sure it meant.

When he'd tossed in his sleep, during those nightmares he'd had every night she'd ever slept with him…it was like he was completely lost, the look on his dreaming face, and she'd felt as far from him then as if she was on the other side of the world. Like no one and nothing could pull him out of whatever personal hell he was walking through. He kept reaching out, but it wasn't her he was reaching for. When he touched her in his sleep, he rolled away again. He would murmur, but nothing she could make out. Never anything that made sense.

Until a month ago, the night after the original Scooby Gang had gone down into the Initiative, the night after they'd been chased by the First Slayer in their dreams. That night, when he'd come back to his bed, and she'd been in it, and they'd made love, he'd fallen asleep and tossed and turned as usual. But in the middle of it, he'd finally whispered out a name, his back to her in the creaky old sofa bed. Not her name, though she'd reached for him anyway, pulling him to her and trying to soothe away his sleeping fears, and her own. Not her name, but that of the creature that was glaring at her right now, trying to intimidate her, or crush her, or whatever he was up to, and doing a damn good job. Spike.

And every night since then, until she quietly removed everything she'd ever left at his place, while he was at work, and then called from a pay phone a block away, to say goodbye.



And the demon was jumping up and down on top of Spike's head, at least that was the way it felt. And Anya was standing in the doorway of Rupert's loo, tears slowly running down her face. The monster was exultant. The man was just… disgusted. With himself, with Anya, with this whole stupid bloody day. And he wanted out. He'd had e-frigging-nough.

 Oi! You up there! This is it! NO more. 

As he watched, the girl looked up at him with a face ripped open with the kind of pain he'd felt a year and a half ago, when he'd blown into town completely snockered. He'd been so torn up over Dru that he'd accidentally set his bloody hand on fire and it had only seemed to provide a peaceful counterweight to what had been going on inside him. That was what was playing over Anya's sharp little features, and he knew he hadn't put it there. He'd torn it free, but it had been in there all along.

Meanwhile his other half was living it up, and so was as surprised as he was when the searing pain tore through his head.  What--  it growled, stealing his memory of words,  --can't even hurt the bitch emotionally without the fuckin' chip workin' me over? 

But it wasn't the chip exploding though his head. It was the grip that Xander Harris had on his hair as he was dragged bodily down the hall and away from Anya.

"Excuse me, Anya. The asshole and I need to have a talk." And with that, Xander pulled him by the hair, through Giles flat, past the mouth-full, jaw-dropped Scoobies, and out the door into the warm summer night. Slamming the door behind them, Xander finally let go of his hair, only to shove him roughly back against the stuccoed wall.

 Oh, dear God, thank you…  Spike whispered in his head, and the demon just waited. This was his, what was throwing him up against the wall, and the animal approved. A nice bit of rough. Then he could go back in and mop the floor with the soppy little demon cunt.

 E-Nough!  Spike shouted at it.

"What the HELL do you think you're doing, Spike?!!" Xander screamed at him, inches from his face. "You say you want to come here, then you act like a complete shit, and then you go and rip Anya to pieces? What are you trying to do? What are you trying to do to me ?"

And Xander, if he wasn't in tears, was as close to it as a nineteen year old guy can come in the middle of June while throwing his lover of three days up against the side of a condo and bringing back his fist…holding it there, poised to fly forward.

"Hit me…" Spike managed to croak out over the sudden howling of the demon, who had figured out what he was trying to do.

"What?" Xander asked, closer to breaking down than ever, by the look of him.

"Hit me. Do it. Bloody well… hit me!"

And Xander did. A hard right to the jaw. Just about coldcocked him, but he didn't go down. The demon went down, and Spike, in his head, took it by the scruff of the neck and shook it like an Indian rug that needed ex-vampire dust beaten out of it.

 No more! You are not in charge here. Wherever you crawled up from, you can bleedin' well fall back down there and stay, because you're never seein' the metaphorical light of day again. 

Spike knew he was going in and out of game face at random, as the…thing…that had been howling in him all evening fought him fang and claw. Xander…knew something was going on. Had his hands against Spike's shoulders, pinning him back to the wall, but also holding him up.

"Don't…let go…" Spike hissed through a fang-filled mouth, and fell back inside himself with a shudder. The beast was tearing at the insides of his mind, as if it were a real landscape, or, more accurately, a cage. He shoved it against the imagined bars, pinning it there much as Xander had him pinned against the wall.

 This is over! You are finished. Nobody, but nobody, is allowed to hurt this boy, much less some jumped-up dick-for-brains monster I didn't even know was living separate lives down there in my brain stem. I am in charge around here. Now. Tomorrow. Period. You don't touch him, you stay away from his friends, and if I hear a bloody peep out of you I swear I'll reach in and rip you out of my head with my own fingers. You think you're bad? You've been living in my skull for a hundred and twenty-six years and you think I'm not a bigger demon than you? Sod off and die. 

And there was silence, as whatever it was…whimpered under the fury of Spike's assault, and retreated. Slunk away trailing defeat like Plakticine. Bloody well forever, if Spike had anything to say about it. And he opened his eyes.



Xander didn't have a clue what was going on, but he held, somehow, to his insane trust in Spike, as human and demon flickered over the face in front of him, and the body jerked spasmodically under his hands. When Spike told him not to let go, he didn't. When Spike opened his eyes again, it was the man Xander knew, or thought he did, looking back at him.

"What the hell was that?" he whispered, and as he loosened his hold on Spike's shoulders, Spike fell forward into his arms.

With his face pressed against Xander's shirt, the vampire said quietly, "I'm sorry."

"You're what? You?" Xander said, not pushing him away, but not knowing what to think. "You're never sorry for anything. Who are you and what've you done with Spike?"

"That…wasn't me. Not any bit of me I ever want to meet again, anyway." Spike didn't move his head from where it lay, and Xander…still didn't know what to think, but he slipped his arms around the vampire's back, and held him there. Forgetting that they stood on Giles' front porch, under the yellow light. Not caring.

"You mean that, don't you. Like you were…possessed, or something," Xander asked, unconsciously smoothing Spike's hair with one hand. What have I gotten myself into, here? Why don't I want to get out?

"No. Not…possessed. I'm just…a little more separate from the demon than I ever thought I was. It got…uppity. Won't happen again. Ever." There was a promise inherent in those words, though Xander didn't know what to make of it. All he knew was…he had back what he thought he'd lost. Again, Spike muttered words Xander hadn't thought he'd ever hear out of that mouth. "I'm sorry."

"What were you…okay, what was it…doing with Anya?" Xander asked, still seeing his ex-girlfriend's face streaked with tears.

"Thought…thought she had it coming. Even I thought she had it coming." Spike's voice was stronger now, more like the guy who'd pretty much taken care of him all weekend.

"For what? What'd she ever do to you?" Xander was long past befuddled now. The last time Anya and Spike had any real interaction, they'd been all buddy-buddy, walking into Lowell House together. Right after Xander and Anya had their big 'No sex last night so we must be breaking up' fight.

"Left a bloody message on your answering machine," Spike answered, and Xander…was seventeen again.

In Buffy's basement, hammering boards across the door to keep out an army of Sunnydale women, including, of all people, Drusilla. And Willow. And Joyce… And inside with him, Cordelia Chase. The only one unaffected by the botched love spell he'd blackmailed Amy Madison into doing. Looking at him with disbelieving hazel eyes, and asking… "The spell was for me?"

In Giles' living room, an hour or a lifetime ago, watching the mother lion roar out of Giles mouth at Spike…or whatever had been driving Spike's body around, and thinking.. for us. Giles does this for us.

"What… for me?" he asked softly, and he felt Spike nod against his shoulder. Chuckle oddly, as if it were catching in his throat.

"Yeah. Some people just send flowers. Or a nice set of torn-out lungs. Me, I have to dredge up an over-possessive demon and throw it at your ex."

Xander had to laugh, just a little. "Well, chocolate's always an alternative option."

"Yeah, all the chocolate you want," Spike agreed, straightening up and pulling back. Standing all the way up to his lofty five-foot-ten, shaking his head, and turning for the door.

"What are you doing?" Xander asked nervously. He didn't think Spike was going to turn back into the landshark he'd been all night; he was more worried about the reception Spike would find on the other side of that door.

"Fixing things, hopefully. Well, this should be a laugh." He set his jaw and opened the door.



When he walked back into the living room, all eyes turned to him. As he'd expected, and he smiled his most spiky smile, then shook it off.  Well, I do know how to warm up a crowd, don't I… 

Standing in the open area in front of the kitchen cut-out window, Xander walking in behind him, he bowed deeply.

"Ladies and GentleWatcher, that was, for your viewing pleasure, William the Bloody being a complete arsewipe." Stunned silence, with a quirk of the head from Rupert.

"Listen very carefully, for I shall say this only once…" he added in a light French accent, knowing that Rupes would be the only one to get it, and not really caring. Back to his own voice: "The following, for one night and one night only, is William the Bloody apologizing. Don't get used to it. Ahem…." He glanced round the room. Anya was still missing, but he had other things to say to her, anyway. "Sorry. " More silence. Arched eyebrows on those who could manage the trick. "Right, that was it. No tape recorders, no flash photography, please. Autograph line starts at the stage door."

And he strode across the room and down the little hallway to the bathroom, knocking softly on the closed door.

"What?" Anya said in a muffled voice.

"Can I come in?" he asked, like a complete fool. Well, he was, wasn't he. He'd figured that out on Sunday.

"Are you insane?" she replied.

"Was that a rhetorical question?" he said jokingly, trying not to piss her off too much.

"Obviously not, since you answered it. Well, I can't stop you."

He pushed the door open. The girl sat on the edge of the bathtub, her arms folded, face still streaked with dried tears.

"Did you want my recipe for Xander-entrails, or boyfriend-head stew?" she asked sharply. "Or did you just want another shot at making me feel like a complete whore? 'Cause, frankly, you did a pretty thorough job the first time."

He shut the door behind him.

"No." He moved closer to her, and she flinched back.

"You can stop the big intimidation routine, too. I'm not afraid of you." She said it as if she almost meant it.

"Good," he replied.  Look, I'm back to monosyllables. Quite the talented conversationalist, I am. 

"Look, you promise that what I say never goes outside this room, Anya?" Not Anyanka, not demon-girl, but the name she'd chosen to use. Which he didn't do for just everybody.

"Like I'd want to repeat anything you have to say."

"Well, a kiss is as good as a smile. I guess I'll have to settle for that."

He moved to her, and as she cringed again, he put his arms around her. Very lightly. Not tight enough to make her try to run, not hard enough to make her think he meant to hurt her.

"What are you doing?" she asked nervously.


She pulled from his grasp. "You're what? Are you out of your mind?"

"Yeah, most of the time. Don't ask, because I can't even begin to explain what the hell that was all about, but I'm sorry. Tell anybody I said it, and I'll deny it. Got that?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Did you just pull that shit on the Scoobies?"

"Er…well, not in so many words…"

"And they bought it?"

"Not a clue."

"Well, it won't work on me. You tell me exactly what the hell you were doing, and maybe I'll consider not putting holy water in your hair-gel. Maybe." She tossed her head proudly.

 Hey, welcome back, Anyanka. Wondered where you'd gotten to.  "Answering machine message."

"Yeah, it sucked. I sucked. Been there, done that."

"You'd better keep your mouth shut, girl."

She shot him another fearful glance, all trace of the vengeance demon gone, only the human child in evidence. "What did I say now?"

"Nothing. You don't repeat this, alright?" Spike folded his own arms, leaning back against the tub that had been his prison the first few days that he had stayed with Giles.

"Al…alright, I guess. What?"

He sighed. Wished devoutly that he had a cigarette. Knew he was giving up another piece of his hold on reality, and was long past caring at this point.

"I didn't get that you love him. Makes a difference." He rubbed his jaw, which had begun to ache nicely where Xander had punched him. Anya tilted her head to one side.

"Are you saying…"

"I'm not saying anything. " 'Cept I'm sorry, which I've said more bloody times tonight than any self-respecting vampire should ever have to say, so do you want to trade partners, or what?"




In the end, they did end up trading partners, because Anya wasn't all that happy about sitting next to Spike, even new, improved, non-homicidal Spike. Instead, she got to sit next to Willow, which was so much more comfortable for her…and try to figure out what Spike had meant by all of that.

Did he…did he care about Xander, too? That was the feeling she got, but with Spike… How could you know? The predator was gone, as if it had never been there. Well, Spike the vampire, supernatural predator, was sitting on the floor next to Xander's chair, piling his half of Team Demon's winnings onto Xander's meager stack. But the Mac-the-knife guy who'd been sitting next to her, slicing her into little pieces with each tap of his finger on her neck… he was gone, and she wasn't quite sure where to.

Did she accept his apology? Did he even mean it? If he did, what on earth did it mean? These and other questions will be answered on the next episode of 'Soap' her memory supplied in a somewhat hysterical blipvert.



"What's the Word of Valios… but honestly, you think that's ever likely to happen again?"


"Who was Morgan Le Fay?"


"Hey--- one I know! What was the feast of St. Vigeous!"

"Oh yeah….memories….light the bloody corners of my mind…"


"Hate this thing. Who was Elizabeth Bathory, and no, she wasn't."


"The Great Fire of London."

"Um…not right, Giles."

"What? The Book of Dentant was destroyed when the London headquarters of the Watcher's Council burned in the Great Fire of London. I should think I'd know!"

"Well, yeah, but you didn't phrase y…your answer in the form of a question."


"I've heard frog farts sounded better than this horn… What, you lot just handed me this one on a plate? The du Lac cross, and no, I don't apologize for that."



"Okay, these things are officially fabulous, Xander. Who really cooked 'em?" Buffy asked around a mouthful of Count Chocula treat.

"I am mortally offended, and I'm taking my Scooby Snacks and going home," Xander teased, trying to tug the pan away from her. "I cooked them all by my little self. Which is to say, I melted the marshmallows and butter, and on the fourth try, I managed not to burn 'em. And I used the actual stove, not the microwave. Well, after the first two tries. And the horizontal interruption, which I'm not complaining about.

"Whoa, color me impressed. Um… when did your mom buy a stove?" Willow asked from the couch, where she lay with Tara's head resting on her knees, Willow happily munching on a chocolate chip cookie while Tara licked the last of her third Scooby Snack off her fingers.

"Alright, enough of that…" Giles said, trying to sound dignified around his own mouthful of chocolatey goodness… "Who's winning?"

Tara looked up sheepishly. "I…uh…think we kind of lost count when Xander and Spike started stealing people's Kisses when we weren't looking."

Spike growled softly. "I resent that, witch. I don't have to steal kisses. I'm eminently shaggable."

"Possibly, when you have your head out of your ass…" Willow put in. "Oh, I didn't say that. Because that would imply that I've actually paid attention to your ass, which I haven't. Absolutely." She looked down at Tara. "Really."

Spike smirked. A legit Spike smirk, not the landshark, and Xander was beginning to believe it really was gone for good.

Twenty minutes later, as he was stacking up empty baking pans in the kitchen, Giles tapped him on the arm. "Are you still staying? I ask only because it rather looks as if Willow and Tara aren't going anywhere either."

Xander glanced over to where both witches lay fast asleep on the sofa, Tara's head lying in Willow's lap.

"No, I'll be okay. Spike seems to have pulled his head back out of wherever he had it stuck."

"With a little help from your fist, if I don't mistake that bruise on his jaw. Can't say I'm not a bit sorry you beat me to it."

Did he have a fucked-up mind, or what? Here he was feeling protective of his ex, at the same time as he got a strange rush of complete happiness that Spike, and whatever was living in his head, had been terrorizing her for him…. And the idea that Giles wanted to beat up Spike also gave him a warm gooshy right in the middle of his stomach. Whacked. Massively whacked.




Driving back, in the middle of the night, and the conversation was a bit better this time around.

"Look, did I mention I'm sorry?"

"Yeah, I think it came up in passing. About twelve times." Xander turned the corner onto Blessingham Drive without taking his eyes off Spike, who was slowly unwrapping a Hershey's Kiss. The bruise on his jaw had turned some interesting colors over the last hour, and was finally fading away into nothingness. Damn vampire healing factor.

"Y'know, they all think you apologized 'cause I beat the crap out of you…"

"Yeah, s'pose so. Make you feel all manly?"

"Yup. Manly Xan. That's me."

"Might watch the road there. I think that cat's down to six lives now…" Spike commented, pointing at a ginger tomcat running off into the bushes at the side of the road.

"Well, then, stop distracting me."

"By apologizing?" Spike asked, popping the chocolate into his mouth

"That's a pretty distracting apology," Xander replied honestly, then slowed to a stop, for the thirteenth time, as Spike leaned over and kissed him, transferring the chocolate kiss from his mouth to Xander's, and sticking around while it melted onto their tongues.

"I did promise you all the chocolate you wanted…" Spike pointed out.



As they pulled into the alley around the back of the house, Xander dimmed the headlights and coasted in, hitting the trash can with what was at least a gentle tap, and not a sickening crunch.

"So…" he said into the silence. "We gonna do this thing tonight, or what?"

Spike laughed. "Well, that was romantic. Beats hell out of 'wanna interlock parts…' " He looked over at Xander in the driver's seat. Green tropical print shirt. Chinos. Dark hair blown into his face. Yeah, he wanted the bloody Yves St. Laurent of Sunnydale… and he'd come that close to losing him. That close to stepping over the invisible line in the sand that would've made Xander choose his closest friends over --the dead guy who taught him how to give excellent head. Because that would've been such a wrenching decision, obviously… But he hadn't crossed that line. Neither of them had, somehow.

"Well, the moment kind of lost some of its mystery when you asked me to pull into Walgreens so you could buy more lube…"

Spike gawked at him. "I did not! I didn't say a damn thing about buying lube!"

"Yeah, but you did, didn't you?" Xander grinned outrageously.

It was so bloody unfair that the human was learning to read him. Only the Poof could do it with any degree of accuracy, and then only when it didn't involve himself.  Great. My mind's an open book, with the last three chapters torn out. Should I even bother trying to keep the fact that I love him a secret? Didn't this whole fiasco just about throw me into the sun anyway?  No, he decided. Like Angel, Xander could be remarkably clueless when it came to how people felt about him.  Right, because I'm the master of insight on that score…. 

"Well, yeah. But that's not why I actually went in there." He reached into his duster and pulled out a handful of photos. "Thought I'd see if I couldn't invest in a little profit-making venture. Enough to pay for blood and cigs for a while, anyway." He flashed the top of the stack of identical pictures at Xander, and saw the boy's eyes widen, then narrow. The grin didn't fade away entirely, though, so Spike figured he wasn't going to get his toys confiscated.

"Buffy's gonna kill you."

"Sooner or later, probably. But before then, I can think of a few fellas down Willy's way who'd pay a fair sum for a picture of the Slayer in bunny slippers. If I fence 'em through the little rat."

"And where did you get the money to make the copies in the first place?" Xander asked him in a stern Watcher-voice.

"Let's just say Rupert's billfold might be a bit lighter tomorrow morning, and leave you to guess how I did it. " Pause. Sigh. "Don't worry, I'll pay him back. Last thing I need's you bellyaching on at me about stealing from your friends."

"Perish the thought. Excellent change of subject, by the way."

"Thought so. Let's go inside."



Xander sat on the edge of the bed, watching Spike hang up his coat. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd folded up the sofa. Tuesday? Wednesday?

Nope. Not nervous, not me. Five days ago I was freaking out over being kissed by Spike, and now it's all about this…him and me thing. This…him doing me…thing.

"You look like you're about to be carted off spouting 'It's a far better thing I do today than I've ever done before…' " Spike remarked, sitting down next to him.

"Thank you. I now have a mental image of Miss Carson from eleventh grade lit class running through my head. It's not pretty. She's holding a little white tube…"

Spike laughed appreciatively. "You ever think about doing stand-up?"

"At the moment? Thinking it might be tomorrow's career possibility. With the standing, and all…"

"Yeah, I got it." Spike put his left hand on Xander's right, playing with his fingers.

God, who knew Spike was so damn touchy-feely? Not that I'm complaining.

"You still trust me? Even after that disaster tonight?" the vampire asked, looking him in the eyes.

He nodded. Just felt right. "I guess so. Keep forgetting to take the little red happy pills, or somethin'."

Spike's hand moved to his face, tracing a pattern of circles down one side of his jaw. "Right, still demented. Check. Xander, I've no intention of hurting you."

"Yeah. I know. I believe you. God knows why. But… hell, you're still scared you're gonna set your chip off. Not exactly a confidence-building exercise, there." Xander was torn between wanting to give in to the feeling of Spike's fingers on his body, moving his own hands over the vampire, tearing his clothes off…. A few dozen scenarios presented themselves, but they all had at their heart this…thing… that was making him sit still and stare a little glumly into space. A little fear of being physically hurt. A little fear of looking stupid… okay, a lot of fear of looking stupid…Maybe a bit of terror at the thought that what his dad tossed at him every now and then as an insult was actually true. And, okay, a bit late to be getting antsy about that one, but it was different, somehow, when you looked at it the other way around.

"You don't have to do this." Spike's voice was completely even. As if he didn't care one way or the other. What bullshit.

"But you want to."

"Not important. Get a spine, Xander, before somebody else walks all over you. Again."

"Thanks. I think. Spike, this is stupid."

'What, us? Yeah, probably." Spike stopped moving his hand, just left it resting comfortably against Xander's face.

"No. Me. I want this too. I 'm just scared. Am I allowed to be scared?" Let's ask the badass vampire if it's okay for me to act like a five-year-old, and see what he says. Should be worth a few laughs.

Spike pulled him forward into a chuckling embrace. "Yeah, you dolt, you're allowed to be scared." The vampire began to undo the buttons on Xander's shirt, slowly. One at a time. Carefully. Which was oddly comforting, and yet weird, considering he'd ruined a reasonably okay t-shirt on Saturday, but was being all Felix Unger with clothes that Xander knew damn well he thought were revolting.

In a few minutes, he knew exactly what was happening, and why Spike was being so careful. He was being made love to. Not having sex, and the distinction sounded so girly in his head that he had to run it past his cringing mind several times before it actually lodged as the only possible term for what was going on. With Faith, it had all been about sex…getting her off, actually, and somehow in the middle of it he'd had a little happy of his own. All rushed and confused and still not sure what had happened fifteen minutes later when she'd pushed him out the door. With Anya…it had been about both of them, though she'd had a millennium of experience on him. She'd want to try something new, for him, at least. He'd either go for it or not, depending on how…squirmy it made him feel…and they'd dive into it together, like an experiment. She'd been human for less time than he had, really, considering she was a little younger than him when she became a demon in the first place. She'd try to please him, and vice versa, but it was nothing like this.

Spike was concentrating every move, every thought, on him. Slowly removing Xander's clothes, kissing and licking in the wake of his fingers. Stopping every so often to push him gently back against the pillows and touch mouths, touch lips, touch tongues…kissing seemed like such a paltry word for what Spike was doing. It wasn't that he was…holding Xander down and ravishing him, or anything, which at this point would have been fine, too. Xander was free to run his hands over Spike's body, to touch while he was being touched, and he did. It was merely that Spike, while obviously enjoying it, seemed to think it was icing on the chocolate cake. It wasn't his main objective, and Xander almost got the feeling his own attempts to pleasure his lover were getting in the way.

Somehow, without really knowing when, he'd lost all his clothes except for his boxers, and Spike was completely naked. When did he manage that? Somewhere between my shirt and that bit where he was sucking on my earlobe? Spike looked at him and grinned, and with a shake of his head, vamped out, and began tugging the boxers down with his teeth. Ripping little holes in them, and sliding those oh-so-sharp fangs gently down Xander's waist, over his hips…. Nope. Not actually nervous about game face. Sometime when Spike was in a really good mood, he'd have to tell the vampire why… and then run screaming from the room, throwing chocolate behind him as a distraction…The teeth, though, the teeth sliding down his body, really damn near to the parts of himself that he'd grown rather attached to…made him a little nervous, but the sensation was actually enhanced by that delicious tingle of fear.

Spike was on top of him now, face to face, grinding their bodies together in a rhythm that was so agonizingly slow that Xander wanted to be the one, this time, to shout 'Get on with it' at his partner, but he didn't. Couldn't. Every move that Spike made, every touch, every lick of his nipples, until they seemed to be as erect and sensitive as the cock that was pressed against Spike's…it all sent such waves of energy through him, burning like a brushfire… He was totally at Spike's mercy, and the vampire was sending him into sensory overload.

Finally, when it really seemed like he'd go off just from the friction of their bodies rubbing together…that had a name…Spike had told him it had a name, but it was pretty much lost along with most of the rest of the English language… Spike slowed to a stop, pulling up from sucking on Xander's lower lip. "You think you're ready?" he whispered, and why was the Englishness of that accent suddenly driving Xander crazier than it ever had before? Even around those teeth…

Think? What the heck was 'think'? Xander pulled Spike back down to him, covering the vampire's ridged, oddly planed face with hungry kisses. It did finally filter through to him, what Spike had asked, and…no, not really, but when was he ever ready for anything? He nodded, enough times that Spike got the message, and wrenched his face away from Xander's mouth, features smoothing as Xander looked at him, as he stared at Xander. Yellow eyes shading to blue, fire shading to…something else. Concern, maybe. Or …just something else. Something he was afraid to try to identify.



Spike slowly pulled the boy up, and turned him in his arms, so that Xander was essentially sitting on Spike's knees. Pulling both pillows out from where they were wedged against the sofa-back, the vampire placed them in front of Xander, and gently guided him down. Despite the heat and the hunger and the out-of-control passion he could smell coming off his lover in waves, the body under his hands was trembling, and he knew it wouldn't be this easy.

Kneeling between Xander's slightly spread legs, he bent close to the back of the boy's head, and whispered… "Relax. Just relax. I won't do anything you don't want." He put his hands on Xander's shoulders, and began to knead the tenseness away, or try to. Pulled and rubbed, shoulders, back, digging his knuckles firmly into the ridges of the spine. Some of the fear seemed to melt as he rubbed at the muscles in Xander's lower back, and though there was a bit of squirming when he got down to the slim-but-muscular buttocks, he kept going, and at last Xander was… still, at least. Possibly relaxed.

Possibly, but as Spike looked down at him, the vampire realized that there was barely any movement at all.  He's not gone and fallen asleep on me, has he? 'Cos…maybe funny in a few years, but right now?  But no. A light touch along the length of his back made Xander curl upwards against Spike's hand, briefly, before he dropped back down into that completely motionless position again.  He's playing victim…  Spike thought suddenly.  Like… the more he relaxes, the less it'll hurt him, which is true, but this is more along the lines of 'Please don't hurt me and I'll do anything you want' resignation. 

"Y'know," he said, trying to keep the anger from his voice. Not anger at Xander, but at whoever or whatever had made him think he had to lie down and take what troubles came his way. "This would be a lot easier if you didn't look like you were about to be the Great Virgin Sacrifice at the Festival of K'rish N'keth." Chip? What chip? The bloody chip wouldn't ever get to be an issue, at this rate.

With that, Spike pulled Xander back up by the shoulders, slid back against the sofa upholstery, and shifted the boy around so that he was sitting on Spike's lap, folded tightly in his arms. Xander stirred, then.

"Spi-ike," he began in that same 'I'm supposed to be a man, dammit' voice he'd used the last time Spike had held him like this, on a folding chair in the kitchen.

"Hush up. I mean, do you really not want me to hold you, or d'you just think you shouldn't?" Maybe they could at least end this one here.

"Um…the one with the thinking, I guess."

"Right, so hush up, then. Listen to me. We don't ever have to do this, if you don't want to. I'll play bottom for you for…"  ever…  he wanted to say, but didn't.  You don't have forever. You have until he comes to his senses and realizes what a liability you are. So make the best of it.  "for as long as you want."

"Yeah, but that's not fair." Xander sighed.

"Fair? You've got to be banging me blind, right? Fair?" Spike looked closely at Xander's face. Dark eyes full of questions. Wide mouth sort of scrunched and unhappy. Generally confused. "You really don't get it, do you. You think I'm…what, sacrificing something? Honestly, you think it's like that? That you're the only one who got any fun out of what we've been doing?"

Xander shrugged. "Well, you did say you got off on pain, but…"

Spike snorted in astonishment. "You little idiot. Yeah, I get off on pain, at the right time and place. Sorta got the feelin' that you do too. But that's not what this is about! You honestly have no clue, do you."

Xander shrugged again. "That's me. The clueless wonder." He was insulting himself again, thinking Spike was picking at him. Wonderful.

Spike pulled him closer, and kissed him, hard. "Stop that," he said sternly when he finally let the boy breathe. "If I want to hear someone pick on you, I'll call the cheerleader in L.A. Fine, you're Helen Keller and I'm Annie bloody Sullivan, and if I do one thing tonight, it's gonna be to show you what the hell you've been missing."

"You're who?" Xander half-snickered.

"The Miracle Worker. Don't I look like Patty Duke to you? Now shut up and listen to me. You on your stomach would be easiest on you, but you turn into a kicked puppy, and I don't want a kicked puppy. I want Xander Harris. Now if I can say that with a straight face, you think you can handle lookin' at me when we shag?"

Xander nodded. Still under the mistaken impression he was doing Spike a favor. Well, he was, in allowing the vampire to turn him on to the finer things in life, but…

Spike shook his head, and pushed the boy off his lap, down to the mattress. Flat on his back.



Xander was trying, he really was. He was still turned on, still hard, in fact. Still wanted Spike, even kind of wanted Spike inside him, just to know what it felt like, even if it hurt. He was just…scared. It all came down to that. Still, looking at Spike's face as the vampire pushed him down flat… it was keeping him sane. As sane as he ever was, anyway. He held to the blue eyes, as if they were his lifeline in an empty ocean.

Spike grabbed the pillows that Xander had been bent over just a few moments before. In a blink, he'd lifted Xander's legs at the knees with one arm wrapped tightly around them, and slid the pillows under his hips with the other. Chuckled when Xander gave a surprised "Huh?"

"Ancient vampire secret. S'called the missionary position. Just keep lookin' at me." So Xander did, wondering what else was in store, lost at sea, but feeling inexplicably buoyed by those damn blue eyes staring calmly at him.

Spike broke that contact, just for a minute, to reach over to the back of the sofa. Right, little white tube. Not supposed to be scared, right? Spike, come back.

And he was back, lifting Xander's legs again, easily, slowly. Why is the vampire suddenly treating me like I'm gonna break? Maybe because I am? Hooking Xander's knees over his shoulders, and leaning close for a kiss. Which was a bizarre position, but not too uncomfortable, and having Spike that close to him let Xander watch those unwavering eyes all the more easily.

The eyes never moved, but Spike's hands did, firmly massaging Xander's ass as they lifted it a few inches off the pillows, then settled him down again. When Spike's cool hands parted his lower cheeks, Xander just kept watching those eyes. Caught a glimpse of a smile somewhere below them, but was too focussed in to really be sure. When a cool, slick finger softly touched him, seeking entrance, he didn't flinch, just kept watching. When, after a moment of pressure, it slipped slowly inside him, his eyes opened wide.

"Shh… s'alright. I won't hurt you. Trust me. Trust me to make it good, pet." And Spike's eyes never blinked, as that finger slid slowly further in, and then…then what the hell was that? Like…little glowworms of light going off in his head, so he almost couldn't focus on Spike's eyes, suddenly full of mischief.

"Like that, did you?" Spike's finger twisted sideways, and that feeling was back, so intense that he couldn't even identify where it was coming from, really, except that it was coming from Spike. It could almost have been shooting straight into him from those suddenly muddy blue eyes, that had never broken their contact with his own.

"D'you see, now, eh?" Spike murmured, slowly withdrawing his finger.

"Don't…" Xander complained against his own will, and Spike laughed.



No headache so far. This was… what would the idiot Slayer say? Of the good. And if he kept looking into those hungry brown eyes, it probably wouldn't matter anyway, because they'd suck him in, chip and all, and, and he'd be stuck inside Xander Harris for all eternity. Which didn't sound like a bad proposition, come to think of it.

He coated his fingers with lube again--no point in not being as careful as he could, for both their sakes-- and slowly inserted his two fingers into the boy's puckered opening, never breaking eye contact. Xander's pupils dilated as he was stretched and filled, and this time when Spike crooked his fingers, Xander bucked forward against him.

"Do that…some more, please."  Why, how polite. Whatever else they may have done, the folks upstairs raised him up well…   Spike muttered insanely to himself. But a request had been made, and he did his best to fill it, moving his fingers in and out, watching Xander's eyes close in pleasure. Just the look on that face had his own cock twitching to be inside, but he wasn't going to rush this. He didn't want to wind up unconscious, and he didn't want to hurt Xander physically himself any more than he'd wanted the demon to tear the boy apart emotionally earlier tonight.

He tried for something poetic as he cast an unpracticed prayer to whoever might be listening. He could do poetic, in a pinch, but apparently not in the middle of shagging Alexander Harris. Too many distractions.  Whoever's up there, or down there, or whatever, I know I'm the last demonic bugger you want to do any favors for…but if you're there, then you made me, dammit. And you aimed me hellbent towards this boy, and I'd appreciate it if you'd let me love him now. Without bein' zapped unconscious. I don't want to hurt him. You got that, rotten little chip? A-bleedin-men. 

He pulled both fingers out, finally, and whispered… "You think?"



Not a lot, no, not at the moment. But Xander got what Spike meant, anyway, and hissed out an answer.

"Yessss. Please. "

Another pause, during which he felt suddenly more empty than he'd ever been…but Spike's eyes were there, and Spike was whispering things to him, stuff that didn't make any sense, but did.

"Okay, love. Be easy. Relax. I've got you. Just look at me. Just look at me." And Xander felt himself stretched again, wider than before, and… it burned, hurt, actually, like being torn in two. Two, him and Spike. This was what he had been afraid of, but it was nothing. It was part of the high that he was riding, looking into blue eyes that were reflecting him back at himself. And in the tiny reflection of Xander's eyes that he could see in Spike's, there was no reflection of Spike. But that was okay, because Spike was all around him, looking down at him, inside him, leaning close over him and still whispering.

"Okay? Xander, answer me. You okay?" He nodded, shifting a little, grinding forward against Spike. Couldn't form anything like words. And it didn't hurt the same way anymore. The burning wasn't something he was coasting over, it was something he was living in, aching for. He whimpered as Spike pulled out a little, and Spike chuckled again. Always laughing at him, Spike was. Then there was the bit where his head exploded, as Spike pushed into him with blinding speed, and hit that same place he'd been hitting with his fingers, but this time it was over and over, until all Xander could see was blue in front of his face and electric sparks inside his own eyes, and he was making sounds he didn't even know he could make.

Then Spike was supporting Xander with only one hand… how the…vampire, right…and reaching in with the other to grab Xander's cock, stroking it in time with the thrusts in and out of him, and Xander wasn't really making a lot of sense even to himself as he whispered, "Spike…just don't stop that, ever…" In a second of blue and sparks, he was flying…falling…landing in Spike's arms as the vampire groaned deep in his throat and filled him with warm seed. Warmed by the heat that they'd generated, maybe, or maybe Xander just couldn't tell it from his own, which was covering Spike's hand, and his own belly. Breathing was probably a good idea, but it was slow in working its way through his brain, as he lay there, Spike collapsed forward on top of him, brow-to-brow, so he could still look into those infuriating blue eyes. Which were crinkled now, so he knew damn well Spike was smiling.



"Still think you're the Great Virgin Sacrifice of K'rish N'keth?" Spike laughed into his mouth, then released him to breathe again..

"Not…anymore, I guess."

"Oh, good. 'Cos they tend to eat the virgin sacrifice afterwards, an' you've got years of fun left in you."


"Mmmm… what's that, then?"

"You're still here!"

"What-- like I was gonna bugger off? "

"No, stupid…the chip didn't go off."

Spike lay atop him for a moment, lifting his head and studying Xander's face. A grin the size of Texas slowly spread across the vampire's countenance. "Yeah. Whaddya know. The road to hell and all-- good intentions. Well, mostly good."

And Spike suddenly rolled over, so that Xander was atop him, looking down. Nice. Then a hand reached around and slapped Xander quite sharply on the ass. Then another, from the other side. He jumped a little, and yelped. Not that it wasn't pleasant…just unexpected.

"Ow. And Ow. What was that for?"

'First, for callin' me stupid… and second…" Spike's grin could now officially be classified as 'shit-eatin'… " 'cos I can."

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