Lost in the Dark, Cleansed in the Flame


Part Nine

Xander lay next to a still unconscious Spike, worry marring his boyish features.  Once they'd gotten back to Buffy's house he'd insisted that everything else could wait, he wanted to sit with Spike until he woke up.  He didn't want the vampire to wake up alone, unsure of where he was.  Xander had been whispering words of comfort and carding his fingers through Spike's hair ever since they'd lain him on Joyce's former bed.

"Spike, please wake up."  Xander pleaded.  "We're safe now.  The gang came and brought us back to Buffy's house.  Even Angel's here."  Xander's bottom lip began to tremble.

"Pleeease Spike."  Xander whispered in between placing soft kisses all over Spike's still face.  Xander's tears began to fall at the silent answer his lover gave.  Exhausted, Xander gradually fell asleep his tears falling silently on Spike's chest and his arms wrapped solidly around Spike's still frame.


"Why have you aligned yourself with the Initiative?  Was it a council decision or solely your own?"  Giles question Travers.

"As head of the Council, any decision I make IS a Council decision."  Travers answered smoothly.  

Giles grimaced at that answer.  Arrogant pillock.  "Why the Initiative?"  Giles repeated through gritted teeth.

"They were the fastest means to achieving the goal."

"And whether or not torture, pain, and death were part of the equation didn't bother you at all!"  Angel growled at him.

"As I told young Mr. Harris, I'm sorry - "  Travers began, but was quickly interrupted.

"You're sorry?!  You're sorry?!"  Buffy repeated.  "You kidnapped one of my closest friends.  You tortured him for over 48 hours!"  Buffy's voice wavered with indignation at the attempted apology.  "You've done something to Spike - "

"That's just the spell.  He'll be fine."  Travers interrupted, trying to placate the group.

"What spell?"  Willow demanded.

Travers' look darted over to Angel and then quickly away, but he continued to remain silent.

"She asked you what spell."  Angel repeated.  Travers remained silent.  Stepping forward, Angel began to growl softly.

"Really Rupert, if I could just speak to you alone - "  Travers tried.

"I think we'd all like to hear your answer."  Giles replied.  Angel continued to step closer to the trapped Watcher.  "But if you'd like to do this one on one, I'm sure Angel would be happy to oblige."

"No! I - " The smile that Angel sported was enough to break any man.  "Please!  I'll explain everything, just give me a moment."

"I think your times already up."  Buffy answered.

"It's the Raven!  The Raven Rupert!"  Travers rushed to explain.

"You can't be serious?"  Giles answered.

"Who's the Raven and what does he have to do with Xander and Spike?"  Buffy asked, exasperated with all the non-answers they were getting.

"The Raven is an ancient demon, very old and very powerful."  Giles began.  "Some believe she is related to the Roman Goddess Nox, the embodiment of night.  Or merely another form of the self same goddess."

"Okay, so some sort of demon god.  Sounds bad."  Buffy admitted.  "But what does she have to do with Xander and Spike?"

"There is a prophecy."  Travers explained.

Buffy rolled her eyes.  "Of course there is."

"The Raven wishes to blanket the world in darkness.  To banish the sun, and create an eternal night."  Travers expounded.  "The prophecy states that she can only be stopped by the flame that ignites when two souls, one of light and one of dark, unite.  It is only they that can banish her from the world and back into the nether planes."

"And you think that the light and dark refer to a vampire and a consort?"  Giles asked.

Travers nodded.  "We studied the prophecy and all related texts extensively.  The only conclusion we could come to was that the bond referred to in all the descriptions was a Claimant bond."

"Why did you have to torture them?"  Willow asked, tears in her eyes at the pain that Xander and Spike must have gone through.

"It wasn't meant to be torture.  We just had to be sure that the bond was strong enough.  We had to test them."  Travers tried once again to explain his actions.

"Yes, unfortunately we are all intimately aware of what exactly a test by the Council entails."  Giles spat back at him.

"Wait!"  Willow suddenly stood up, her finger pointing at Travers intently.  "You said the prophecy called for two souls to unite.  But Spike doesn't have a soul!"  Willow's statement sounded as if she wanted to end it with a heartfelt 'ha!' but refrained.

"Yes, well - "  Travers hedged.

Angel's eyes widened with understanding.  He restrained himself from lunging at the man, just barely.  Turning to Giles he asked, "Are we done with him?"  

Giles too had understood the moment Willow's words had left her mouth.  And he could definitely see why Angel was so eager.  "Yes, I believe we are."

"Good."  Angel grabbed Travers by the collar of his shirt and pulled.  "We'll be down in the basement if you need me."  And then they were gone.

"What just happened?"  Buffy asked quietly.

"The s-spell."  Tara answered.  "He gave Spike his soul."  

"So why is Angel so angry?"  Willow asked.  "I mean besides the torturing thing…"

"Because, he had the spell all along."  Buffy answered, understanding finally dawning.  "If he needs the Claimant bond to stand, he couldn't have cursed Spike.  He'd lose his soul the second he woke up with Xander.  The spell he used must have restored his soul permanently."  And then Buffy was gone.  Her footsteps echoing down the basement stairs.


Upstairs Spike woke with a start.  He remembered the heat of the flame engulfing him.  He could feel it burning inside him.  He remembered the shame and the ecstasy all wrapped together.  Squeezing him, choking him, until he couldn't take anymore.  Until he finally surrendered to the blackness.

Xander woke to the sound of Spike's whimpers.  He sat up quickly, and wrapped his arms more firmly around his mate.  "Shhh.  It's okay Spike.  We're safe now."  Xander reassured him.

"Xan?"  Spike turned, burying his face in the crook of Xander's neck.  

"I'm here Spike."  Xander carded his fingers through Spike's hair, occasionally turning to place light kisses on the crown of his head.

"It burns."  Spike whimpered.

"What burns love?"  Xander asked, wondering whether he should get Giles.

Spike lifted his head, his eyes locking onto Xander's.  His hand came forward and began rubbing his chest just above his heart.  "The spark."  He whispered.  "My soul."  Xander's hand darted out to catch the silent tear that fell from his lover's eye.

Part Ten

Quentin Travers could not remember the last time he'd lost his composure so completely.  Angel stood before him, vampire face to the fore.  He'd known that once Rupert's children discovered the intention of his spell, he would not be able to avoid this confrontation.  But he had not fully believed that Rupert would allow the vampire such free reign with him.  He looked about hoping for an escape but found none.

"How long?"  Angel asked his voice reverberated with anger.

"How long what?"  The watcher feigned ignorance.

In a blink Angel had him thrown up against the wall, hanging by his shirt collar.  "How long have you had that spell?"

"It wasn't meant for you."

Angel shook him hard.  "That's not what I asked you."  He growled and lowered his fangs to the man's neck.  "Now how long?"  Travers shivered as he felt Angel's fangs scrape across his skin.

"Always."  The word escaped in a fearful whisper.

Angel roared and flung Travers across the room.  He hit the far wall with a thud and collapsed in a heap on the floor.


Xander held Spike to his chest, trying to calm the shuddering vampire.  He'd never seen his lover so affected by anything before and it was beginning to scare him.

"Spike?"  Xander continued to run soothing circles over Spike's back.  "I don't know how to help you."  Xander sniffled.  "What do you want me to do?"

The vampire said nothing, only snuggled closer to his mate nuzzling Xander's neck.  "Is that what you need?"  Xander whispered.

Xander pushed Spike gently away, until their eyes met.  He leaned in and gave Spike a chaste kiss on the lips, before turning to bare his neck.

Spike's tongue peeked out to lick at the puncture wound still visible from his original Claim.  Xander moaned and pushed forward, silently begging for his fangs.  

Spike slid into game face sinking his fangs in to the mark he'd been laving with his tongue.  Hot, sweet warmth filled his mouth and he sucked greedily.

Xander was writhing below him, his erection grinding hard against Spike's hip.  Spike's own hard-on was straining the zipper of his jeans, so he reached down to unfasten them.  

Spike took one last swallow of the sweet elixir that was his mate, before he pulled back and brought forth his human visage.  Xander's eyes were closed and he was breathing shallowly, his face flushed with arousal.  Spike brought their lips together, his tongue snaking out to dance in Xander's mouth.

Xander's arms came up to circle around Spike's torso.  He pulled the vampire roughly to him, wanting their whole bodies to be in contact.  His hands wandered until they reached his waist, pulling the shirt he wore up until they had to separate briefly to free it completely.  In the same process, Spike pushed his jeans down so that he was now completely nude.

Xander had lain down with just his boxers on when they'd brought Spike into Joyce's room.  So he stood quickly and divested himself of the cotton barrier.  They both pounced back onto the bed, grabbing at each other hungrily.

Xander found himself on his back, his legs raised so that his knees were practically behind his head.  He could feel Spike's cool finger probing at his opening and he groaned, pushing back against it.  They were both too aroused to wait much longer, so Spike quickly prepared him.  Lubing his fingers and sliding first one, then two into Xander's channel.  He scissored them a few times, waiting for Xan's muscles to relax before he pulled out.

The head of Spike's cock was pushing against him.  Xander could feel drips of precum oozing down his crack.  He grunted when the bulbous head pushed through, his hands coming around to grasp Spike's hips and pull him closer.  

Spike knew that Xander could have used some more preparation.  The snug channel was tight around his cock, making him slow his assault just a bit.  Xander loved the burning feel of being stretched by Spike, and only wanted more so he pulled roughly causing the vampire to slide balls deep into his ass.  They both groaned incoherently; eyes shut tight against the feeling of being together.  

Soon Spike couldn't hold off any longer and he began to move in and out.  His pace slow and languid at first.  But Xander's urgings spurred him, the feel of his lover's hands squeezing his cheeks tight with each down thrust too much to bear.  He sped up, thrusting fast and hard.  The headboard bounced loudly against the wall, their grunts quick and harsh could be heard down the hall.  

Spike leaned in to kiss Xander.  His mouth wandering until Xander could feel the cool tip of his tongue tracing the now healed puncture wounds he'd just bitten.  The feeling of Spike's tongue coupled with his cool hand surrounding Xander's cock made his balls tighten and draw up.

He was so close, and he wanted Spike to find release with him.  So he did the one thing he knew the vampire could never resist.  Xander bit down hard, drawing blood and sucking the droplets in then licking at the tiny wound he'd made.  Spike roared and spilled his seed.  His cock pulsating, massaging Xander from the inside.

The second Spike roared his release, Xander felt himself go over the edge.  His sticky cum splattering between them, coating his lover's hand and both their exposed chests.  When he opened his eyes, Spike was looking at him with love and sweet clarity.  Xander almost wept at the look, knowing that everything would be okay.


Travers woke slowly.  He tried to stand and found it impossible.  He opened his eyes fully and looked around.  He was tied to a chair, his captor sitting only a few feet away on an old cot by the wall.  His heart raced at the look of evil on Angel's human features.

Just then the door banged open and footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs.  Travers looked up eagerly, "Miss Summers, thank god!  Please get me out of here."

Buffy ignored him.  She walked over and sat down by Angel's side, her hand coming out to cover his own.  "You okay?"

He gave her a brief smile and a nod.  "How are Spike and Xander?"

"Well, from the sounds of it…Spike's awake."  She smiled at him blushing slightly.

"Miss Summers please!"  Travers tried to get her attention once more.

Buffy's head whipped around.  "Shut up!  You don't get to talk."  She snapped at him.

Buffy turned back to find Angel staring intently at the head of the Watcher's Council.  "Maybe you should go back upstairs.  You may not want to be here for this."  Angel warned her.

"No way!  I want in on the fun."  Buffy answered firmly.  Her own eyes tracking toward the now shivering man tied just a few feet away from them.

They stood as one, walking slowly toward the man.  Travers screamed.  "Help!!"

"Didn't I tell you to shut up?"  Buffy asked, just before they reached him.

Travers just continued to scream.


Xander and Spike descended the stairs.  They could hear faint whimpering and the sound of flesh striking flesh.  Spike's nostrils flared at the smell of blood in the air.

The sight that greeted Spike was heavenly.  The wanker that had kidnapped his mate was tied to a chair, while the Slayer and his Sire took turns striking him.  It was obvious that during the course of their little game, they'd used more than just their fists.

"Well, well.  Can we get in on the fun?"  Spike asked.

Angel looked up, the expression on his face softening.  "Spike.  Xander.  How are you feeling?"

"All right for having been kidnapped and tortured for a couple of days, I guess."  Xander shrugged.  Then his gaze rose to meet Angel's.  "Thanks for coming deadboy."

Angel only nodded.

"The wanker gave me my soul back."  Spike hissed out, staring daggers at the semi conscious man.  

"We know."  Buffy replied, her gaze going back and forth from Angel to Spike.  "It's permanent.  He's had it all along."

"Bloody fuck!"  Spike cursed.

"What he said."  Xander pointed at Spike.  He knew what this meant for Angel and Buffy.  What it could have meant so many years ago.  He shook his head.  All that pain, for no reason.

"Did you guys find out more about this prophecy he was talking about?"  Xander asked.

"Yeah, he explained most of it upstairs.  Giles and Willow are looking into it now."  Buffy answered.  "So we were just killing some time."  Her eyes traveled back to the Watcher.

"Mind if we join you?"  Xander asked, although Spike had already approached Travers.

Spike punched Travers in the face, hard.  "That was for taking my mate."  He grinned in satisfaction.  "Oh yeah, ta very much for taking care of the chip for me."

Spike continued to whale on Travers while Xander watched. He reveled in his new chipless state.  Turning to regard Xan, he asked "Want to get some of your own back luv?"

Xander stepped forward.  A determined look graced his face.  "Just want one thing."

"Can't kill him Xan."  Buffy piped up.  "Giles needs him alive."

"Oh I don't want to kill him."  Xander said calmly.  Reaching down to grab hold of the small dagger sitting on the table beside the chair.  His other hand came forward to grab Travers' left pinky, pulling it apart from the rest.  "Oh well, you see there's this prophecy…"

The screams could be heard all the way upstairs.

Part Eleven

Willow sat pecking away at the keyboard of her laptop.  So far they had found very little regarding the Raven, but Giles was checking on a few other leads with contacts back in England.  He'd also found out that Quentin had not bothered to consult the rest of the Council on any of his recent decisions.

Giles had grimaced in obvious distaste as he told Willow the story.  The one good thing was that once apprised of the situation, the Council had not been happy.  They had dispatched a group of Watchers to 'escort' Quentin back to headquarters.

Willow sighed and leaned back in her chair.  She rubbed her tired eyes, and then let her gaze sweep the room.  Her eyes stopped to rest on the basement door, wondering what was happening down below.  The screams had stopped several hours ago, but none of the scoobies had returned upstairs.

Part of her was shocked at the idea that any of her friends could cause that kind of pain.  From the sounds of Quentin's screams, it was more than just a punch in the gut.  But then she thought about what had happened to Xander while he'd been gone.  She'd only had a brief conversation with him, but what little she learned caused her to shudder in sympathy.

She returned her gaze to the screen when she heard the familiar beep that accompanied the results of a search.  She had already found several references to the prophecy but nothing that they hadn't already learned from Travers.  Her eyes narrowed as she clicked on the first link.

"Giles!"  Willow called out to the Watcher, waiting for him to return to the dining room.  When Giles entered from the kitchen, she gestured for him to look at the screen.  "I think I found something."

"Good lord."  Giles whispered softly.  

"What is it Giles?"  

"It seems as if it's already begun."  Giles murmured.  Pointing to the screen he explained, "The portents described here have already been set in motion.  The increased volcanic activity - there have been three times as many eruptions within the last two months than there have been within the last two years."

"And the meteor shower.  Don't you remember the reports last month?  There was an unscheduled meteor shower June 10th.  It did not coincide with any currently known comet trajectory."

"If this contraption is correct, we don't have much time; 3 weeks, a month maybe."  Giles swiped the glasses off his nose, pulling out his handkerchief and rubbing vigorously.  "Call the others up, will you?  I'll make some tea."  And he disappeared back into the kitchen.

Willow's heart was racing.  What did this mean for Xander and Spike?  They were a part of the prophecy weren't they?  Her brow scrunched in worry as she thought of all that Xander had already been through.  

Willow opened the basement door and called down.  She did not want
to enter the room, afraid of what she might encounter.  She was
relieved to hear her friends' footsteps on the stairs below.

They assembled themselves in the living room; Spike and Xander taking the couch, Buffy sitting cross-legged in front of Angel who took the armchair.  Willow and Tara seated themselves on the floor in front of the coffee table.  They all waited as Giles brought the tea service in, offering hot mugs to each of his charges.  

Xander waited until all the snacks and refreshments were distributed before he asked, "So what'd ya find G-man?"

Giles took a deep breath before beginning.  "I'm afraid it looks as if the prophecy is quite valid.  I've spoken with several of my colleagues in England and they all agreed.  Most of them were on the research committee that had gathered the initial information."  He offered as proof of legitimacy.

"Willow was also able to recover some more information through that contraption of hers."  He gestured toward the now idle laptop.  "The signs that are described as a sort of countdown to the Raven's arrival have already begun.  We don't have much time left to counter her plans.  Less than a month I'd say."  Giles was too busy cleaning his glasses to notice the furtive glances the scoobies were trading.

"The Council was able to retrieve some vital information regarding the Flame and it's uses against the Raven."

"The 'Flame'?"  Xander put air quotes around the word.  "Is it like a weapon or something?"

"Very good Xander.  That is precisely what it is."  Giles answered.  "The Flame is an ancient sword.  Legend states that it was forged by Hephaestus himself.  It is the only weapon that can kill the Raven."

"So where do we get the bloody thing?"  Spike asked, impatient.

"According to the ancient texts the Council consulted, the souls of dark and light must work together to retrieve the sword.  It is housed in an annex to the Hall of the Mountain King."

"The Hall of the M-mountain King?"  Tara repeated.  "I thought that was j-just a myth."

"It's real enough."  Spike answered a note of bitterness in his voice.  "You telling me that we have to face the three challenges?"

"I'm afraid so."  Giles replied.

Xander looked at his lover with curiosity.  "Three challenges?  Like the kind they have to do to get to the magician in those Xanth books?"

"Yeah, you silly sod."  Spike couldn't help the grin that lit his face as he boxed Xander's ears in affection.  But the grin faded as the conversation continued.  "'Cept if we fail we forfeit our lives, not just our chance to ask a soddin' question."

"Oh."  Xander's face remained neutral but Spike could feel his heartbeat pickup and his breathing lengthen.  The vampire reached around to wrap his arms around the slightly panicked man beside him.

"Don't worry Xan, I won't let anything happen to you."  He whispered in his mate's ear, nuzzling his neck in reassurance.  When Xander had calmed a bit, Spike looked back up toward the Watcher.  "I'll go alone."

"No!"  Xander asserted just as Giles answered with a, "That is quite impossible."

"Why the bloody hell not?"

"Because the prophecy states that the challenges cannot be passed without both your participation."

"Besides, I won't let you go without me!"  Xander insisted.  "I'll be all right.  I just needed a minute to let it sink in."

"Fuck!"  Spike let out a frustrated growl.  Would there ever be a time when he would be able to keep Xander out of harm's way?  He looked over at the determined face of the man in question, and sighed.  Not bloody likely.

"Fine."  Spike answered resignedly.  "When do we leave?"

Part Twelve
First Challenge

Warning - implied child
physical and sexual abuse

Spike had been grumbling the entire time.  Xander just ignored it, knowing that at least Spike did have something to complain about.  The trip had not been easy for him, having to be boxed up in a coffin to avoid the sunlight until the plane had landed.

But now they'd finally arrived, a bit jet lagged but intact.  They'd spent last night in a decent hotel and gotten some much needed rest, and now stood just outside the mouth of the cave.  This was it.  Giles hadn't been able to give them too many specifics, just that they were to go through three separate challenges.  And in order to get to the room that housed the Flame, they would need to master each one.  But he had no knowledge of what the challenges might consist of.

Spike had a bit more information.  It seemed that the reason that none of the challenges had been recorded was because they were never the same.  The cave was magically enhanced to issue challenges based on each individual's, or team's in this case, strengths and weaknesses.  The challenges were never designed to be completely unsolvable, just extremely difficult.  There was more than just the Flame residing in that cave; there were several other treasures.  And the Mountain King was happy to part with any of them, as long as they went to worthy warriors.  

Xander stared at the open mouth of the cave.  It didn't look like anything special; certainly not a place in which he could lose his life.  But apparently that was a forfeit.  If the tasks could not be completed successfully, one or both of them would become a permanent resident.  'Or not so resident', Xander thought.

He turned toward Spike and tentatively broached entering the cave.  "Ready?"  The vampire growled in return, not wanting to begin an adventure in which he would again be putting his lover in harm's way.  "Do I have a bleedin' choice?"

Xander walked over to Spike, taking both of his cool hands in his own warm and callused ones.  He rubbed his thumbs over Spike's knuckles, bending slightly forward to place a chaste kiss on Spike's lips.  "Don't."  Another kiss.  "Nothing's going to happen in there."  A kiss and a lick of the tongue.  "We're going to go in, get the flame thrower thingie, and get out."   Xander placed his forehead against Spike's, forcing their gazes to meet.

"'S not a flame thrower.  It's a sword, you git,"  Spike admonished with a bittersweet smile, and a soft chuckle.

"Whatever."  Xander rubbed his forehead gently against his lover's.

After a moment they broke apart, but Spike refused to let go completely.  Keeping Xander's left hand clasped in one of his own.  "Okay, let's go."

They entered the first chamber side by side.  Directly in front of them stood a small wooden sign with the word "Instructions" etched at the top.  "Well nice of 'im to give us directions,"  Spike mused sarcastically, before reading on.  The instructions were fairly straightforward; no details, just the warning that two of the challenges would be psychological, while the third would be physical.  And that any attempts to move forward once a competitor had tried and failed any of the challenges would result in the forfeit of his life.

The two men looked at each other for a moment.  Without another word they moved forward to the next chamber, hands still clasped together.  Spike's thumb rubbing absently over the back of Xander's hand, trying to relieve some of the boy's tension.

The second they walked through the archway, Xander's whole body froze.  His eyes dilated, and his heart rate kicked up.  Before Spike could question him, they were wrenched apart.  And only then was Spike able to discern the contents of the room.  His unneeded breath caught in his throat when he recognized the living room of his mate's former home.  What the fuck?

At the loss of Spike's hand, Xander's mind was thrown back into another time, another reality.  His breathing became erratic as his eyes swept the room.  He remembered.  Every detail.  The sunlight filtering through the raggedy curtains over the west window.  The dust motes flying through the air as he threw open the screen door and pushed through the front entrance.  The shout as he stumbled on his own clumsy eleven year old feet.  The sound of shattering glass as the lamp by the door fell in slow motion to the ground.

Xander whimpered, falling to his knees and raising his hands above his head.  He shut his eyes tight and bit down hard on his bottom lip.  Drawing the blood out and sucking it down his throat, he focused on the coppery taste, rather than the pain from the strike he knew was coming.

Spike was cursing and beating against an invisible wall.  He could see Xander cowering by the door, a man walking toward him with rage on his face.  He shouted to his lover, but Xander was beyond hearing him at the moment.  Spike cursed and spit, trying to get past the invisible barrier, but had no luck.  He knew this scene.  Knew the man to be Xander's father.  Knew what was coming next.  And he was powerless to stop it.

Xander could feel his father's presence looming closer.  And he waited.

At the first blow, Xander went careening to the left.  His cheek landing on a piece of broken glass.  Shards of broken bulb cutting into his hands as he pushed himself back off the ground.  He could feel the small stings of pain and the drip, drip of his own blood.  He knew the coppery taste in his mouth was from more than the small nibble he'd had at his lip earlier.

"I'm sorry sir,"  he whispered raggedly.  Wiping the blood from the corner of his mouth as he spoke.  Staring at the ground, refusing to meet his father's gaze.  "I didn't mean to -"

Xander's face whipped to the side with the second slap.  "You never mean to, you worthless piece of shit!"  He knew the words by heart, but they made him cringe nonetheless.  Unbidden tears came to his eyes, and he felt them leak onto well worn tracks on his face.

"Crying now?  You pansy ass!"  His father grabbed him by the collar and threw him roughly onto the old sofa.  A spring poke him in the stomach.  "You're such a goddamn faggot!"

"No!"  Spike cried out.  "Xan!!"  Why wasn't he fighting back?  Why was he just taking this shit?  Spike could see the wet tears on Xander's face and knew that his boy had given up.  That he would let this monster do whatever he wanted and that Xander would just lie there and take it.  And Spike's unbeating heart broke into tiny pieces at the thought.  Xander would just lie there and take it, because that's what Xander had always done.  "No!"

Xander felt numb.  He acknowledged the spring in his stomach, but the rest of his body felt like a ragged puppet doll.  He couldn’t move himself.  Even though his mind screamed for him to run.  To get away.  To stop his father from doing what he knew was about to happen.  He could hear his father slipping the belt from his pants as he walked toward the couch.  The words he muttered were dark and familiar.  Xander's body quivered in fear, but made no other move.

When his father's hand landed on his backside, Xander yelped.  Not from pain, or fear, but despair.  It would happen again.  And there was nothing he could do about it.  He was just a boy.  He couldn't defy his father.  He felt the cool air hit his skin as his father slipped his jeans down, along with his Spiderman underwear.  The tears came faster, and were accompanied by shallow gulps of air that made Xander nauseous.  The foul smell of alcohol that permeated the room, and most especially his father's clothing, filling his lungs.

Spike had exhausted himself trying to break down the walls of his prison, but so far nothing.  He couldn't reach Xander physically and it made Spike ill.  He wracked his brain, trying to figure a way out.  A way to help Xander.  He began to shout as loud as he could, hoping to reach his lover.  But Xander made no move to acknowledge he'd heard a word.  Then suddenly Spike was howling at his own stupidity.  He dropped to the ground, folding himself into a comfortable lotus position.  He steadied himself and forced a mental countdown, until he'd regained control.  And then he reached through the bond.

{Xander, luv!}



{S-spike?}  Xander's mind was in chaos.  How could Spike be here?  Spike hadn't known him then.  Spike hadn't been there to see his father -

{No, luv!  You're not there.  It's the challenge, remember?  The bloody fucking challenge!}


{Fight back Xan, please.}  Spike urged him, trying to keep a thin veil of control over his own rage.  {You're not a boy anymore!  You're a man.  More than that, you're my mate.}

{Your mate?}  Xander felt comfort in the word.  In the thought that he was someone's.  That someone thought him worth enough to brand him as such.

{Yes, luv.  Remember?}  Spike was nearly in tears himself.  {You're mine.  I'm yours.  Don't let that fucking bastard touch you!}  Spike screamed at him.

And then the tears did come.  Tears of relief as Spike watched his mate launch himself off that fucking ratty couch.  He watched in glee as Xander threw the first punch, sending his father's clumsy form reeling toward the door.  Then Xander was on top of the man shouting, sobbing, and punching.

Then Spike was at his side,  the barrier having disappeared once Xander's father had lost consciousness.  And the moment his hand landed on Xander's shoulder the room shimmered and changed.  Now they sat on the floor of an empty cave, Xander's old living room gone along with the bastard that had been about to rape him.  Xander was still dressed in the same jeans and t-shirt he'd walked in with.  Spike took Xan into his arms and rocked him until the sobs tapered off.

"God, Spike!  I never wanted you to see…to know - " Xander's sentence went unfinished, his head resting still in the crook of Spike's neck.

"Shhh, Xan.  No worries, yeah?"  Spike rubbed a soothing hand up and down Xander's arm.  "Doesn't matter now.  The bastard's gone."  And when he got back to Sunnydale he'd make sure that Xan never had to worry about that bastard of a father ever again.

"No, Spike."  Xander's hand came up to caress Spike's cheek.  "I don't worry about him anymore.  I know you'd never let anything like that happen to me again."  Spike cringed at his own lack of finesse.  He should have known Xander could easily pick up on his thoughts with the bond still open and their emotions so high.  It warmed him to know that Xan trusted him to protect him.  But his own bruised pride wouldn't allow him to discount how easily he'd allowed Xander to be taken only days earlier.

"Stop it!"  Xander admonished.  "You didn't let anything happen to me.  You got me out then.  And you got me out just now."  Xander gestured across the now empty room.  "I couldn't have gotten through that without you."

Xander pushed himself off Spike, just enough to turn around.  Enough to raise his head and his lips, to Spike's own.  They kissed softly, reassuringly, until Xander's relief caught up with him.  The near miss of another horrific childhood episode had Xander's adrenaline still pumping, and the kiss turned from comforting and sweet to hot and hungry.

Spike moaned at the change in his boy, his cock hardening instantly.  Xander moved, spreading Spike's thighs and positioning himself so that he was lying across his lover's lanky form.  Their cocks rubbed against each other through the rough denim, causing them both to thrust and moan.

Xander wanted nothing more than to press their groins together and grind their cocks hard until they both came.  But he resisted the urge.  They had two more challenges to go through, and even he wasn't far gone enough to want to go through them with sticky jeans.

Instead he reached down and unzipped first Spike, and then himself.  Standing again he pulled off his own jeans, giving Spike a hand up to do the same.  They were standing now, both in nothing but the shirts they'd thrown on that morning.  Before Spike could make another move, Xander was back down on his knees, his hot mouth taking in Spike's cool length.

"Oh fuck!"  Spike's knees threatened to buckle, but he regained control just in time.  His hands shot forward to thread through Xan's thick hair, and his hips began to thrust forward, fucking Xan's mouth with zeal.  "So hot, luv!"  He could never get enough of the furnace that was Xan's body. No matter how they touched, Xan was always hot and the contrast to his own cool skin was amazingly sensual.

"Hmmmm."  Xander hummed appreciatively, knowing what the vibrations did to his lover.  He was rewarded when Spike cried out and spurted salty cum down his throat.  Pulling his mouth off the softening member, Xander licked then smacked his lips outrageously.  "Mmmmm.  Salty goodness."  He rubbed his stomach in an exaggerated manner.

"Get up here, you cheeky git!"  Spike hauled him to his feet, clamping his lips down on Xander's.  Their tongues dueled for a moment, until Xander lost himself to the feel of Spike's claim on him.  And when Spike's hand wrapped around the engorged head of his cock and squeezed, Xander nearly shot right then.  Instead he groaned and allowed his eyes to roll back into his head, his hips bucking of their own accord.

He kept his eyes shut tight as Spike made his way down Xander's body, lifting his t-shirt to allow access to his already peaked nipples.  His lips ghosted over Xan's skin, stopping to lave and nibble at Xander's sensitive nubs.  All the while stroking and squeezing Xander's leaking cock.  Finally he reached Xander's crotch; still squeezing with a free hand he brought his lips forward and then snaked his tongue out to lick just the tip.  "Ungh."  Xander grunted.

Then he took pity on his lover, and engulfed the rest of his cock until his nose was buried in Xander's curls.  He swallowed once, twice.  And then sucked hard while he bobbed his head up and down the shaft.  "Spike!"  Xander cried out, almost crushing his skull with his callused carpenter's hands.  And then Xander was coming, the rush of fluid making Spike swallow involuntarily, which only prolonged Xander's orgasm.  

Finally, both men sated, they lay together on the ground, wrapped in each other's arms.  "Thanks.  I needed that,"  Xander whispered softly.  "I know, luv."  Spike's hand came up to card through Xan's hair.  "Rest for a mo'.  We'll be heading out soon for the next challenge."  

"'Kay," Xander answered before drifting off for a few precious moments of sleep.  Spike stopped to kiss him just on the crown of his head before continuing the soothing scalp massage.

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