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3: Consolidation

Spike loved Saturdays. On week days he always woke up alone, with only a vague memory of Xander extracting himself gently from the bed. But on Saturdays he woke up with a warm body plastered to his side and the knowledge that the same would happen again the next day. Oh yes, he loved Saturdays!

Xander's head was resting on Spike’s shoulder, his arm across his chest. Spike pulled him into a tighter hug, enjoying the heat the human's body gave away so freely. He was still deeply asleep. The boy subsisted on so little sleep during the week, trying to keep vampire hours and hold down a job; it was always Spike who woke first at weekends.

Spike ran his hand up the smooth, silky strength of Xander's neck and into his hair, carefully tightening his fist around the longer curls at the back of his head. Xander murmured in his sleep and snuggled closer, his burgeoning erection responding to his Master's touch and pressing against Spike's thigh. No, he would let the boy sleep some more. It was only 11am. They had gone to bed at three, but six hours was not enough for Xander on a Friday night. Spike smiled to himself as he realised his good intentions were fast ebbing away. A few years ago that wouldn't have mattered to him. Now, he occasionally tried to do the right thing.

Extricating himself from Xander's arms and replacing his own body with a pillow, Spike stood up. He gazed down at his human's peaceful face as he hugged the pillow to him and thought about last night. It hadn't been a gamble. Not really. If Xander hadn't been ready he wouldn't have seen the lesson. The fact that he had, at last, gave Spike a warm feeling of pride and accomplishment. He loved his boy and he was going to take care of him. Although it would probably be a good idea to let Xander's mind settle and come to terms with this reality before he pushed him further. He went to make himself breakfast, keeping an ear cocked for the change in Xander's breathing and heartbeat which would signal his awakening.


Xander woke to the heavy lethargy of sufficient sleep after a week of short rations. His arms and legs were made of wood, his shoulders of rock and someone had riveted his vertebrae together. He stretched, arching his back and legs, pushing oxygen and life back into them as he groaned his waking. Becoming aware of the familiar, satisfying ache and soreness, he allowed a smug smile to spread across his face. Then, as the higher brain began to catch up with the concept of consciousness, he remembered the club and the conversation of the night before. Flopping onto his back he closed his eyes and did a quick review: an inventory of certainties and satisfactions, a check for insecurities and discontent. When it all came back clear he relaxed his mind to match his body and thought about getting up. His mouth was arguing with his bladder in a contradictory attitude towards water, so he rolled out of bed.

In the kitchen Spike began gathering the ingredients for Xander's breakfast, listening to him in the bathroom. He heard the flush, then the shower started. He checked the clock. Xander would still be a good 20 minutes; Spike knew exactly how long it took him to shave his whole body and wash himself properly, inside and out. He briefly considered going in to help, but the boy would be hungry and needed some time to himself to think, so he stayed where he was.

Xander let the hot water run down his back as he finished shaving his legs. The ritual of his cleansing allowed his mind to retain his morning calm. It provided him the reassurance and space that other people got from meditation. Leaving the club he had decided not to think. Once they were home, they had talked about what they had done since this started between them, rather than what it all meant. And yet, an understanding of what it meant had developed overnight, as he slept. The knowledge had sedimented out, to settle in his soul. He luxuriated in the feeling of hot water running down his body as he thought back over the past six months: their first night together and his panicked, ignorant certainty the next day that it was somehow right; the next night when Spike took him properly for the first time, soft and comfortable, soothed and relaxed, warm in the bed; the day he told the others that he and Spike were together and how he ran home to the comfort of Spike's arms afterwards; the first time Spike kissed him in front of Buffy, Willow and Giles. Just a quick kiss of congratulations for staking a vamp, but a milestone he would have dreaded had he been expecting it. The first time he knelt at Spike's feet in public - in the same club they went to last night. That had been difficult. He hadn't dared raise his eyes from the floor all evening for fear of recognising someone.

He smiled as he remembered his terror when Spike first introduced him to open-air sex – totally desperate for more, but unable to resist constantly checking the mouth of the alley. Spike held him close from behind as he thrust into him and whispered in his ear that it would be alright. And of course it was. Even the group of young partygoers who wandered past 20 feet away hadn’t noticed anything. Now there was hardly an alley or park or cemetery in Sunnydale which they hadn't 'patrolled' together.

Running his hands over skin which had never felt so soft before he and Spike got together, he thought about the first trip to San Francisco when Spike dressed him in party clothes for the first time. He remembered how appalled and aroused he had been by the looks he got and appalled again by the thrill they gave him. He smirked to himself at the memory of his loud denials when Spike had shown him the outfit and he had realised the thong would cover very little of what was left exposed by the chaps. Yet he'd found that walking outside in the open air like that, so exposed, had been amazingly liberating. It was on the second trip to San Francisco that he had gone down on his knees and sucked Spike off in public for the first time. Spike just sat down on a bench in the middle of the park and calmly asked for a blow-job. And Xander had done it, kneeling on the path between Spike's knees. Suddenly, he realised that Spike had never asked anything like that from him in Sunnydale. He wondered idly if the nearest fetish club really was half an hour's drive away.

There was still a small part of his mind that thought what he had learned yesterday should have somehow changed him. Changed how he felt about himself, about Spike, about his life. But the truth was, the insights of last night had been nothing more than the acknowledgement of choices already made. All those single, small steps were revealed as a journey that had brought him far from his guilty, solitary fantasies.

Luxuriating in the sensation of soap and his own hands against his skin, he tilted his face into the force of the spray and tried to remember the first time he told Spike he loved him. It hadn't taken long. And Spike had come right back with the same declaration. Now Xander couldn't imagine his life without Spike. Spike's rules – Spike's ruling – gave him the security he had always hungered for, without really knowing his own lack. Spike gave him the freedom to be himself and Xander realised that was all he could have ever hoped for. All he could have ever wanted.

Spike gave him a confidence in himself he had never had before. He'd found a pale shadow of it when Anya helped him get his first construction job and he'd discovered that he was good at something, at last. But the fiasco of 'the wedding that wasn't' had ripped it all away again and Anya wasn't there to help build it back up. He'd kept his job, thankfully, and continued to prove his worth there. But it had been hollow without Anya to come home to. Years of wearing a brave face had allowed him to hide how he felt, but he had reverted to bad, old habits in private.

And then Spike. He was so grateful to Spike and he loved him so much. There was no way he would ever be able to show how grateful he was. Never be a way to prove how much he loved him. As he carefully edged the razor around his balls he resolved to keep trying. This life he had now was what he had always wanted. For months he had successfully fooled himself into thinking it was a game; acknowledging that it was real, was a breath of freedom.

Turning off the water and stepping out onto the mat he grabbed a towel and rubbed vigorously until he was totally dry and warm. His balls were tingly and sensitive but so smooth as he rubbed oil over them and he was hyper-aware of his ass, which felt empty and hungry following the douche of warm water. He rubbed the oil around the pucker and inside using two fingers, then grabbed the lube and worked that in and around as well. Finally he stepped back into the shower stall with the carton of talcum powder and ran a couple of handfuls all over his arms, legs and torso, rubbing off the excess with a dry towel before heading back to bed.

In the kitchen Spike checked the clock again and smiled.

Xander had just settled back into the nest of sheets, pillows and quilts when Spike walked in carrying a tray. He smelt the eggs, bacon and mushrooms and his stomach growled.

Spike laughed. "Guess you're hungry then, eh?"

Xander gazed up at him; a naked angel carrying breakfast. He scrambled into a sitting position as Spike sat on the edge of the bed and passed him the tray.

As Xander ate, Spike studied him looking for signs of tension in his body language. He found none. Xander appeared rested and relaxed. Spike would not have been surprised to find Xander suffering some degree of revulsion; a backlash to his possibly too easy acceptance of the night before. Instead all he saw was a hungry man enjoying breakfast in bed. Well, he would bear it in mind, but he wasn't going to go stirring it up if Xander was still happy.

Unconsciously echoing Spike's thoughts of earlier, Xander said, "I do love Saturdays."

Spike watched Xander mop up the last of the egg yoke with a square of toast. "Yeah Pet, so do I."

Xander looked up at him mischievously. "Even though you have to get up first and make me breakfast?"

Spike's face became stern. "I don't have to, Pet. I do it 'cause I want to. You need t'be looked after, and that's what I do; I look after you. If I want t'treat you good on your two days off, I'll do just that. Okay?"

"Yes, Spike. Sorry," Xander said, although he looked anything but. When Spike's expression didn't soften, Xander pulled out one of his most successful weapons and glanced up at Spike through lowered lashes, allowing his mouth to droop slightly into an insecure expression. "Master?" he asked.

Spike's lips twitched. "Don't think you'll get out of it that easy, Pet," he said as he cat-crawled over the bed. "Do I look after you?" he asked.

Xander snuggled down into the sheets so he was looking up at Spike. "Oh, of course you do! I've never been happier than I am now. You know that."

Spike's scarred eyebrow arched in enquiry. "Do I'd treat you proper? Do I keep y'safe? Do I make sure y'know you're safe?"

"Yes! Yes to all of them. Master, please, I wasn't doubting you. I'm sorry. I was just teasing. I didn't mean it like that, honest!"

Spike allowed his amusement to show as his face relaxed. Leaning down across the breakfast tray he kissed Xander lightly on the forehead and brushed the long hair back from Xander's face, his hand coming to rest at the nape of his neck.

"'S okay Pet," he reassured. "I'm not mad at you. Y'just need to think sometimes before you speak." He paused to think himself. "You've been through a lot, last 24 hours. An’ you've managed beautifully. You're intelligent and adaptable and you understood. I couldn't be prouder of you."

Xander's relieved smile was warm and yet somehow shy. "Thank you, Master," he whispered.

Spike stroked his hair again, enjoying the way the still damp tangles caught at his fingers, then shook himself. "You look like you're done with that," he observed, taking the tray and setting it down on the floor.

Xander grinned up at him as he leant down to nuzzle his boy's ear before climbing over him to get back into bed. Sliding his arm under Xander's neck he pulled him in close, tangling their legs together and letting his hand rest in Xander's hair, kneading gently at his scalp. He ran his free hand down Xander's side, enjoying the smooth feel of lightly talced skin against his palm. Xander wriggled, his renewed erection pressing against Spike's hip, but as his Master made no further move, he relaxed against his side.

Spike smiled to himself. "Let your breakfast settle, Luv. It's the middle of the day. There's no rush," he said as he began to count silently.

He had reached 154 when Xander's hand began to move on his chest: gentle, tickling strokes of callused finger tips tracing the lines of muscle and sinew, circling his nipple before moving away to idly follow the lines of his ribs. Spike allowed the hand on Xander's hip to slide around to his arse cheek, up his back to his shoulders, over warm, strong muscle, then down again to the hollow above the base of his spine. One finger slid further, into the crack between Xander's cheeks and he gently brushed the sensitive skin there. Xander sighed softly against his chest. Spike rolled over onto his side for better reach and stroked further along Xander's crack. He rubbed gently over the silky, oiled pucker and pushed two fingers inside.

Xander groaned, pressing his body against Spike. "Please, Master," he begged.

Spike smiled and scrunched down further in the bed so he could bury his face in Xander's neck and push his fingers deeper into Xander's body. Licking around the lower edge of the collar - tasting leather, lemon soap and 'warm' - he flicked at the skin with his tongue. Xander hugged him, digging his fingers into the hard muscles of Spike's back. Like a fledge suckling at its Sire, Spike latched onto his boy's neck. Xander's body arched into him as Spike concentrated on producing a purple mark over Xander's jugular, sucking on the skin while massaging the pulse of blood with his tongue. Pulling his fingers out of Xander's body he reached up to release the collar and give himself better access. Xander moaned and shifted slightly so his neck was more open and their erections were in contact, sensitive skin on sensitive skin. He threw his leg over Spike's hip and pressed hard against him. The collar went flying across the room.

"C'mon, Baby," Spike whispered arching his own body into Xander's. "Oh, Pet. Yes." Grabbing Xander's thigh he pulled the leg up to his own waist and reached around it to stroke the soft skin behind Xander's balls, pleased and enthralled by the moan that elicited.

He felt Xander tense slightly, arms shivering slightly with anticipation, just before he threw his whole weight against him, tipping Spike onto his back. Lying triumphant on top with his legs spread wide either side of Spike's thighs, Xander wriggled, bringing their cocks together again. Grabbing Spike's wrists and pinning them against the pillows above their heads, he began to thrust, lowering his head to brush their lips together.

Spike lay still, allowing the domination for a short while, luxuriating in the feel of his boy's warm, smooth weight on him, of his mouth taking possession of his own. But Xander had caught himself in a trap. He couldn't do anything further without freeing Spike's hands, which would allow Spike to grab him. As Xander pulled away from the kiss, Spike smiled at his boy's predicament and decided that he really didn't need Xander's permission to move.

The breath left Xander's body with an 'oomph!' as he was toppled in his turn, Spike back on top nestled between his legs, his upper body braced on his arms. Xander laughed with delight as he gazed up into Spike's face. "My big, strong vampire."

"And don't you forget it." Spike lowered his head back to Xander's neck, inhaling the rich, brown warmth of him, and concentrated on making the mark a deeper shade of purple. Xander arched his neck and ran his hands down Spike's back grabbing his cheeks and pulling their bodies closer together.

Spike was usually so gentle; his strength manifest in his firm hold on Xander. Xander loved the way Spike held him immobile so effortlessly. When he demonstrated his strength through movement, Xander was always taken by surprise. Like now when, with no warning, he found his legs up over Spike's shoulders and his ass in the air.

Spike shoved a pillow under Xander's back as he leant forwards bending Xander almost double, opening him up. As one of Xander's legs began to slip he grabbed it and wrapped it around his own waist, pushing with his shoulder on the other, spreading Xander wider.

Reaching his hand out he gasped, “Lube, Pet, quick”

Xander scrabbled under the pillow for the tube and squeezed a large dollop out onto Spike's hand, which then disappeared from his view between their bodies. Giving over all control, he allowed his full weight to rest against Spike's strength and relaxed his lower muscles as he felt Spike line himself up.

Spike began to lean his weight forwards in a smooth, controlled press. He watched carefully as Xander groaned, muscles still stretched and sore from the previous night giving way to the pressure. The moment the head pushed through he paused, watching his beautiful boy's face first tense then relax as his body accommodated itself to being filled again.

When he saw that Xander was ready, Spike pushed forwards again, pressing down on Xander's left thigh, lifting his arse further so his prick skimmed gently across Xander's hot spot, until he was fully seated inside. Xander lifted his arms to Spike's neck and managed to raise his shoulders off the bed. Spike began to rock gently as they kissed.

Eventually Xander tired and fell back onto the bed with a murmur of loss. Spike braced both hands on the bed and began to thrust, setting a long, slow rhythm, brushing against Xander's prostate on each pass. Xander threw his arms above his head in a gesture of total abandon and grabbed the headboard, allowing Spike to do his will. As Spike increased the speed of his thrusts, Xander's head began to thrash from side to side in response to the pressure building deep inside his body.

Spike pressed more weight onto Xander's thigh so his prick rubbed more firmly against Xander's prostate and Xander cried out as the pressure ratcheted up one more notch. Then he was laughing, his cum spurting across both their chests and onto his leg. He couldn't stop laughing, the release overwhelming him. Looking up at Spike he saw his own joy reflected in the beloved, demonic face as he felt Spike flood him.

Spike's thrusts slowed back to the smooth rhythm of earlier and stopped. He let his head hang, apparently not caring that his hair was rubbing in the mess, and breathed. After a moment he moved, allowing Xander's legs to relax onto the bed, and as Xander felt Spike slip out of him he realised he was crying.

Spike rolled onto his side, gathering Xander into his arms, petting his back and hair. "I've got you," he whispered. "'S okay, Baby. I've got you."

Xander's body was shivering and jerking in the aftermath and the tears would not stop. But now he was laughing again. "Oh, God!" he gasped. "Oh, God. I'm okay. I'm okay. It was just..." he trailed off, unable to locate either coherence or vocabulary. "Oh, wow. I'm sorry. I'm not crying because I'm sad," he eventually managed. "That was just so..." lucidity deserted him again so he gave up and allowed both his mind and his body to collapse..

"Don't be sorry, Pet. Don't ever say that. Compliment like that should never be apologised for."

Xander managed a smile for the vanity of his vampire, but made no protest.

Spike held him.

For half an hour they lay quietly, the only movement Spike's gentle petting strokes up and down Xander's back, Xander's body loose and limp in Spike's arms. Finally, he summoned the energy to tilt his head where it lay on Spike's shoulder and look up at him. "You never even touched me," he said.

Spike's grin was distinctly smug. "No, I didn't, did I, Pet?" he agreed.

Xander snorted with amusement. "Okay, Mr sex-god-guy. I worship at your feet. We both know that."

Spike laughed out loud. "Yeah, you do, Pet. And at my cock. And at my balls. And at my arse," he began to get creative. "And at the back of my knees. And at my neck. And at my mouth..." He stopped as Xander batted weakly at him with his free arm. "C'mon, Pet," he said, giving Xander a strong, re-energising hug. "Lets go get a shower."

"Bath," Xander groaned. "Can't stand up well enough to have a shower."

Spike chuckled and kissed his forehead. "Okay, bath. You stay there. I'll go run it." He rolled Xander over so he was lying on his back and climbed out of bed, trailing one hand down the length of Xander's body from his shoulder to his smooth, hairless groin. Gazing down at him, he smiled again. "Love that well fucked look on your face, Luv," he said as he left the room.


After a long bath, which Xander spent cradled against Spike's chest as Spike rinsed him clean, Xander was in the kitchen hunting through the fridge. He hitched up his sweats, tying off the string to stop them slipping, and grabbed the milk. He had just poured himself a large glass when he felt strong arms slide around his naked chest. Leaning his weight back into Spike's body he took a long drink.

"You still smell of me and you," Spike growled next to his ear.

Xander put his glass down. "Hmm," he murmured, tilting his head on Spike's shoulder, rubbing his jaw against the rough silk of his shirt, "and eww! Should have let me wash properly."

Spike's arms tightened around him, hugging fiercely. "Not letting any soap near you when you're still wide open. Those of us with working digestive tracts need t'look after their little plants and animals t'stay healthy."

Xander smiled. "You do know you're paranoid about that, don't you? But thank you." He paused. "So how bad do I smell, oh sensitive nosed one? Do I need a shower if we're going out? Are we going out?"

"Nice. No and no," said Spike. "Quiet night with a movie, I thought. Went out last night. You need your rest."

Xander turned in Spike's arms. "I'm rested. Honestly, I am," he said. He lent his forehead against Spike's and smiled into eyes so close they merged into one, whispering softly, "I slept and slept until I woke up. You did all the work. I got a cuddle in a hot bath and it's only 5 o'clock. So if you want to go out, I can do that. But if you want to stay in, that's good too."

"You're such a good boy, Pet," Spike purred. "I don't deserve you." Leaning back, he ran his hands up Xander's chest to cup his jaw. "But I'm glad I've got you."

"Oh, you've got me all right. You've really got me. You'll have to kill me to get rid of me." He looked straight into Spike's eyes, his own dark and serious. "And maybe not even then, huh?"

"You'd let me?" Spike asked, taken aback and not sure, now it came to it, what he felt about that.

"You said it last night: I couldn't have stopped you then. I don't know if I would even try now." A hint of desperation entered his voice, betraying his continued insecurities. "It's true, isn't it? I am yours. I must be. I gave myself to you."

"It is. You are. Don't worry, Luv. You did," Spike hastened to reassure. "You did. An' I accepted. You're mine. But that means I look after you. I wouldn't do something like that without being sure you were happy 'bout it." He grimaced slightly. "Anyway, not sure the soul would let me do it. At least, not until we find a way f'you t'keep yours."

Xander twisted his neck to drop a kiss on Spike's hand. "Some way that doesn't involve a happiness clause," he said. "Because I wouldn't manage to keep it through the first night."

Spike grinned at him. "Yes, Pet. Definitely no happiness clause. Don't want to lose you to the demon. Don't want to lose you at all." He shook Xander's head playfully between his hands. "Anyway, need you to grow up a bit more yet. Don't want to spend eternity getting carded, do you?"

"Hey! I resent that. I'll have you know I've not been carded in... um... a long time, at the very least." He laughed. "I'm twenty-three years old and at last I look my age."

"Sure, Pet. Venerable. Don't trip over your long, grey beard as you leave the room." He sighed in mock exasperation. "Why're we talking 'bout this anyway? Not going to turn you any time soon. Okay?"

Xander's grin turned mischievous. "Yes, Master Spike." Shifting his feet slightly apart he lowered his head and clasped his hands together behind his back, looking up at Spike through his lashes.

Spike grinned back. "Good boy," he said stepping away from the temptation and hitching his jeans. "Come on now, exercises."

Xander groaned but followed Spike into the living room.

After fifty squats, fifty push-ups and fifty crunches, Spike allowed him to stop and sent him to shower. Watching Xander leave the room, he noticed again how the months of regular workouts, training, sparring and a better diet, on top of the manual work of his job, had firmed up his body so his waist was now trim and his muscles more defined. As Xander absently hitched his sweats, he decided that he deserved a reward for watching all that exercise. He followed Xander to the bathroom.


They lay on the couch in their usual position - both lengthways, Xander between Spike's legs, his cheek resting on Spike's chest, one arm wrapped around him - watching Bruce Willis blow up another building. Spike ran his right hand up and down Xander's warm, cloth covered back while his left played with Xander's hair.

Xander tilted his head to look at him. "You do know you have a hair fetish, don't you?" he asked.

Spike gripped a fistful of Xander's hair and shook it gently. "Love your hair, Pet. It's just getting to a good length. Few more months and I'll be able to tie you t'the bed with it. Love the way I can grab you by it now. Love the way it slides through my fingers. But when it gets a bit longer y'can tie it back and it'll hang there like a leash."

Xander grinned. "So," he said slowly. "I'm guessing a visit to the barber is out?"

"Abso-bloody-lutely. You are not getting your hair cut, Pet." He paused. "D'you want to?"

"After what you just said? Wouldn't dream of it. You like it long, it stays long. Or gets longer. Or whatever. It's just..." he stopped.

"Just what?" Spike prompted.

"Oh, it's nothing. Just some of the guys at work have taken to calling me Alexandra that's all. But it's in fun, you know. I don't mind. And lots of guys have ponytails. It's just because it's at that halfway stage where I can't tie it back yet. The stuff on top won't reach. But give it a few more months and it'll be okay." Then with one of his disconcerting non-sequiturs he asked, "Should I arrange for my salary to be paid into an account in your name?"

Spike used his hold on Xander's hair to pull his head up so he could look him in the face. "What're y'thinking, Pet?" he asked.

Xander smiled nervously and took a breath. "Shouldn't we change the bank accounts, so it's your name on them?" he asked.

Spike stared into Xander's eyes, looking for a clue to where this idea had come from, but finding only trusting innocence. He pushed Xander's head back down to his chest and held it there with the flat of his hand, gazing up at the ceiling, marvelling again at Xander's adaptability and thinking this latest development through. Xander, obviously disconcerted by the silence, began to fidget. He had just started undoing the buttons of Spike's shirt when Spike realised the source of Xander's question. Those bloody magazines again. He was grateful to them for being the catalyst that allowed Xander to admit what he wanted, but to his way of thinking they had too much rubbish in them.

He reached down for the remote, reduced the volume on the TV to a low murmur and pushed Xander up to sit next to him. He sat up himself and pulled Xander in to straddle his lap, running his hands up Xander's arms to his neck. Taking two fistfuls of hair in a firm grip, he shook Xander's head slightly.

"Was just thinking, Pet. Don't try t'distract me. That was a serious question and we need to talk about it. Now, tell me what made y'ask that? And don't think I've forgotten about the teasing at work either. We'll get to that too."

Xander grimaced, obviously wondering if he had done something wrong. Spike leant forward and kissed him soundly, but he kept the stern expression on his face as he pulled back.

"So?" he prompted.

Xander ducked his head with an embarrassed smile. "Well..." he said. "I just thought... it just occurred to me..." He took a breath. "That I gave myself to you, so shouldn't my salary be yours too?" he finished with a rush.

Spike smiled and kissed him again. "Still thinking like a human, Pet. But that's okay." Realising that this was the aftermath of their earlier conversation about turning, he started prompting Xander's thinking in the right direction. "Who has cards on your accounts, Luv?" he asked.

Xander looked slightly puzzled. "Just you and me."

"And do you carry your cards around with you?"

"Umm no... I don't need to. I've got the weekly allowance you give me if I need to buy anything."

Spike ran his hands down over Xander's shoulders and arms, to rest on his hips. "When was the last time you signed a cheque, Luv?"

Xander thought about it. "I don't know," he admitted. "I can't remember."

Spike smiled. "Do you even know what the balances are?" he asked, quizzically.

"Umm..." Xander thought back. "No...," he said. "Not at the moment. I know how much I get paid... but... I guess I don't know how much is in them."

Spike grinned. "I do," he said. "So. Think about it. Given all that, whose accounts would y'say they really are, Pet.?"

Xander grinned back in relief. "They're yours."

"Right. So why does it matter whose name's on them?"

Xander paused. "Well..." He hunched his shoulders slightly and Spike looked his question. "I guess I just thought it would be more official or something." He smiled uncertainly. "I don't know... I guess it doesn't matter, does it?"

Spike ran his hands down Xander's bent legs to his ankles, gripping them strongly. Xander's body instinctively arched towards him and Spike smiled, although his voice was firm when he spoke. "No, Pet. It really doesn't matter. Not to me." He looked up at Xander's face, considering the expression there and went on to explain, "We could do that: change the accounts, but that would be like me saying I didn't trust you to behave. That unless I make it impossible for you t'break the rules, you would. But I'm not some insecure human master, who has t'reassure himself all the time that his slave is really his. I don't need to humiliate you to prove I'm worth something." He paused to run his hands back up to Xander's neck, fisting them both into his hair. "You are not my slave, but you are mine, Pet. I know you're mine. And you know it too. Y'know it now more now than y'did yesterday. Now you feel it in your soul. Now you live it with every breath. I trust you." He paused. "Because you are mine," he finished, emphatically.

"Yes, Master Spike." Xander said, dutifully.

"Good boy." Spike tilted his head and looked at Xander "But you're human, Luv. I know that, too. Would it make y'feel better, if we did that?"

Xander smiled shyly and sighed. "Yes, Master. I think it would. I'm sorry if that makes me weak. But, I think I want that. I think I need it."

"Not weak, Pet. Human. And that's okay. I understand. You need to belong. You want to make a public gesture and I approve. That doesn't make you weak. It doesn't make you like those people in the club, playing their games. It's like the difference between living together and standing up in front of everyone and getting married, isn't it? It's like the padlock.

"Okay then," he said firmly. "On Monday you're going t'go to the bank and close down all your accounts. I'll give you the number of an account to pay it into. Right, Pet?"

Xander slumped forward into Spike's arms and hugged him tight. "Yes. Yes, thank you, Master Spike. I'll do that. I can do that on my lunch break."

Spike pushed Xander back upright and kissed him. "Okay, Pet." He took hold of Xander's hands as they moved to the hem of his t-shirt as if to take it off. "Hold on."

Xander stilled.

"There's more, Pet. And much as I would love to get you naked, we both know the power of your bare skin on my brain functions, so leave the shirt on and don't distract me. You're going t'do something else on Monday.“

Xander looked solemn. "Yes, Master Spike. What is it?"

Spike's voice was matter of fact. "You're going to go in and quit your job," he said, as if it was the most reasonable order in the world.

Xander stared at him in shock. His brain seemed to freeze; unable to comprehend language for a moment. Then everything accelerated and the meaning of the words crashed in on him, along with a hundred fragmented images of the site: his tools, the trailer where the coffee pot lived, Dave and Joe and Chris and Awkward Jack, the walls he had been due to work on come Monday. And just as suddenly he realised they were as nothing compared to Spike. He had come to that conclusion in the bathroom this morning. And now he knew it was true. He took a deep breath and relaxed. "Okay," he said slowly. "But if I quit without notice they'll dock my last pay."

Spike tried to conceal his overwhelming relief at Xander's acceptance. If he had needed to breathe, he would have asphyxiated by now. He really had feared that this would be one step too fast. He felt his shoulders relax. Lunging forwards he grabbed Xander's hair and pulled him into a punishing kiss. When they separated Xander was gasping and Spike was laughing.

"Don't worry about money, Pet. I'll take care of you. I'm a rich man," he said, with a smug grin and a nod. Xander's expression was hovering between reassured and sceptical, so Spike continued, "That club we went to in SoMa? They pay me rent. I own the whole building. Have done since the Seventies. Got property all over. How d'you think I could fit up the factory or buy all the bits of The Judge if I had no dosh?"

Xander relaxed. "Oh. Oh well... That's a relief. I didn't really want to live in a crypt and have no money for blood and food."

Spike's hand was gentle on his head. "But you'd have done it. If I said that's what we were gonna do?" It was not really a question.

"Well... Yes. If you wanted to do that. I mean, that's how you lived before." He frowned as another thought occurred to him. "Why did you live in a crypt, if you didn't have to?" he asked.

"Didn't care enough, Pet. Couldn't be bothered with banks and money when I had no one t'spend it on. But now I do, and you're not gonna to live in a crypt. Not sure yet where we'll live, but it'll be proper and warm and the fridge'll be well stocked." He slapped Xander on his bum. "Now, go get us a beer each and we'll see if the rest of this movie is worth watching."

Xander's smile was warm and happy as he scrambled off Spike's lap. "Yes, Master Spike. Of course, Master Spike. Right away, Master Spike."

"Cheeky brat."

Part 4


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