Who Wants to Live Forever


by
Metaforgirl



Part Twelve

Xander miserably packed his bag. After his little gut-wrenching confession to Wills, and then that pathetic non-conversation with Spike, he had slunk back to his room and spent the rest of the morning there, alternately sulking and kicking himself. He was feeling really crappy at this point. Partly from excessive self-flagellation. Partly from lack of exercise and air. And partly from hunger. His appetite for Willow’s organic waffles with strawberries had flagged considerably after Spike’s dramatic exit this morning. Xander figured that he had consumed perhaps one egg, half a waffle and a quart of orange juice.

The alcohol working its way through his liver and kidneys wasn’t helping either.

He could hear voices downstairs and figured the ‘safety in numbers’ rule would make this as good a time as ever. He slid down the stairway as quietly as possible and saw Dawn and Bill in the entryway with luggage. Dawn was methodically announcing items and checking them off a list. Bill was dutifully lugging said items out the door. Willow’s voice was rising in the kitchen, instructing someone to do something as well. Spike was nowhere to be seen.

Xander slunk into the entryway. “So, you two taking off now?”

Dawn looked up. She was fresh and pretty in a light blue suit, her eyes and cheeks ablaze with excitement. “Hey Mr. Sleepyhead,” she said, “I wasn’t going to leave without telling you.”

“Yeah,” said Xander, “I know Dawnie. Just had to get something to eat.” He sidled towards the kitchen, trying unobtrusively to check for lurking vampires.

“Oh, Xander! I should have fixed you something,” said Dawn apologetically. She gestured helplessly at her list. “Honestly, breakfast was scheduled. I don’t know, the time just slid away.” Her eyes danced towards Bill, who had re-entered the house. He swept an arm around her and grinned down at her greedily.

“Hi,” he growled. He nuzzled her neck. “Missed you.” Dawn giggled happily.

Xander shook his head and slipped into the kitchen. Willow was there with two young women Xander thought he recognized from the ceremony the night before. They were handling items on a large leather tarp spread across the island counter. Willow was apparently enumerating in Latin; Xander surprised himself by recognizing the language, and the young women repeated the words after her.

She glanced up at him briefly and sternly, and went back to her lesson.

“Dulce. Nauseam? Veritas Lux. Mutantur. Fabas. Deus et natua faciunt. Lacrimae rerum Fumo. Volat. Alright now. Pax vobiscum.”

Xander opened the refrigerator and studied the contents suspiciously. He assumed that many of the foil-wrapped packages were leftovers from the night before, but he suspected that there might be some Wiccan ingredients bumping around in there as well. With the Latin buzzing in the room behind him, he didn’t even want to touch anything remotely magical. Who knew what kind of demonic entity might be chasing him across the front lawn if he did? He went for a relatively normal looking carton of milk. He stood looking out the kitchen window, guzzling the milk down. Outside was another bright sunny day. Obtuse, optimistic, Southern California weather, he thought grumpily. Where’s a dense fog when it’s warranted?

“You have to eat more than that, don’t you?” Willow had stopped and come up behind him. As the young women rolled up the tarp and carried it off, she re-opened the refrigerator and started pulling out packages. “Nutrition. Exercise. Medication. Right?” She slapped the items down on the counter and brought out a plate. Xander flinched a little, watching her.

“Moderate life style?” said Willow, glaring pointedly. Xander didn’t answer. She continued preparing his plate; her movements spoke volumes of upset. Xander felt the guilt wash over him again.

“How long?” asked Willow quietly as she fussed with a chicken leg.

“Since diagnosis?” Xander cleared his throat unsteadily. “Little over a year.”

“What’s your t-cell count?”

“Around 300.”

Willow’s hands stilled. “That’s terrible,” she said gravely. “What’s your viral load?”

“Whoa Wills,” Xander attempted levity, “someone’s been doing her homework!”

Willow rounded on him fiercely. “Do you think I’m stupid Xander?” she enunciated carefully. “Do you think all this,” she waved her arm dramatically, “is just some sleight of hand?”

Xander made a show of looking around the kitchen. “Uh, Wills, I assume you’re talking about something other than ceramic tile, ‘cuz…”

Willow slammed her hands down on the counter. “I’m a healer, Xander! Do you think that means I sit around changing rats to girls, and boys to toads? Do you think I spend my time doing love spells for silly teenagers and middle-aged housewives? Do you?”

“Figured you were pretty busy doing that saving the world from evil thing, Willow,” said Xander quietly.

“And I wouldn’t have time for my friends? Have I ever not had time for you, Xander?”

Xander toyed with a fork and pulled the plate slowly towards himself. “You can’t help this time, Wills,” he said without looking up. “This is pretty much permanent.”

Willow was silent. Xander picked at his food. He felt her standing next to him for some time, and then walking away. When he heard her stop in the doorway, he looked up involuntarily. She was giving him her saddest, darkest look. It made him cringe.

“We are all dying, Xander,” she said gravely. “Some of us just want it more than others.”


~*~*~*~*~


Spike stood in the dark of his room and wished he weren’t dead. He could hear the movements going on below him. The slow but irrevocable exodus of Dawn from his life. And he suddenly wished fervently that he could place this day in some context of finite time. He wished that he could mark this day down in a mental tally of a limited lifespan and think, ‘ah well, there’s that then. And now for the declining years’, or whatever philosophical little homily parents thought when their children left home. He suddenly wished he could look sadly forward to another decade, maybe two, and then nothing.

But Spike felt, instead, like an entity floating in the dark of space. No North and South or East and West. No time passing, or holding still. Just an infinite tumble through infinite nothing, while the tiny spaceship of Earth that had been his focus slowly withdrew and fell away. He looked around the empty gloom of his room at the few objects scattered there. They seemed bizarre and foreign. Affectations of an existence he shadowed, but could never fully enter. And as the world pulled away, Spike became more and more just the thing that he was. A consumer of blood. A demon inside a dead body, raging against a soul to be unchained. The fragile glass ball of love that held him, his desire for redemption, his need to do good, seemed sometimes as weak as an eggshell holding wild twisting evil inside it.

He felt the stillness suddenly below him and realized it was probably time. Well, he wasn’t going to send Dawn off remembering him like this. He shook himself fiercely and strode from the room.


~*~*~*~*~


Dawn looked up and saw Spike sliding himself expertly past sunbeams to join her at the bottom of the stairs. He was swaggering and smirking and giving Bill the evil eye. She stepped into his arms without invitation and clung for a moment. She felt the hard chest and rocky arm muscles clench around her once, just tight enough, and then release. Spike held her away from him a little, and his eyes ran rapidly over her face. He touched her cheek very lightly. Then he glared at Bill.

“Oi, Pillock. You take care of her.”

“Right Spike.” Bill held his hand out for a firm shake.

“I hear one bleeding word of complaint …” said Spike gruffly.

“You won’t.”

Spike cocked his head and grinned. “She’s gonna drive you round the bend, ya know.”

“Oh, yeah. I know it.”

“Hey!” Dawn shoved at them both.

“Right then.” Spike cleared his throat and waved them off, “Off with you then. Call and all that bollocks.”

“We will,” called Dawn as Bill ushered her out. “Bye Willow, Spike, Xander. Bye. Love you.”

Spike turned away, his vision so blurred he could not see. He found his way rapidly up the stairs and shut himself back into the darkness of his room. He threw himself face down on the bed and felt himself falling through the endless parabola of space and time.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander had the nausea and diarrhea again. Probably from drinking so much the night before, he admitted to himself grudgingly. Who needed antiretroviral drugs when there was Bacardi? He had spent the majority of the afternoon in the bathroom. Occasionally making his way, on rickety legs, to the kitchen for more water, more juice. Willow shooting him dark looks, when he occasioned to pass her. She and Giles had some kind of business going on today. He thanked the Gods for it. Figuring he would otherwise be under Willow’s interrogatory lamp.

He was extremely aware of the closed door at the end of the hallway. Spike had shut himself in after Dawn’s departure, and hadn’t emerged since. Perhaps he was sleeping. Xander doubted it though. He had seen the vampire’s expression as he stumbled up the stairway. Xander was amazed at how the thought of Spike’s stricken face was making him ache. He wanted to do something. He couldn’t think what. But the thought of Spike huddled in that room alone and in pain was eating away at him. He shakily climbed the stairs from the kitchen, the next time, with a bottle of water clenched under his arm and a mug of warmed blood balanced in his hands. He made it to the door before he had to stop, breathless with fear. Xander stood there for the longest time. He imagined how little Spike would want him there. He remembered Spike’s face storming out of the kitchen. So much anger, so much disgust. He thought perhaps he should just put the mug down outside the door, knock and run off, like a villager leaving an offering at the cave of the oracle. He was standing there stewing in his cowardice, and self-disgust with said cowardice, when the door flew open and he was confronted with Spike.

“Harris, if you’re gonna stand outside the door, at least close yer bloody mouth. I can hear yer nasally breathing from a mile away.”

“Hey, Spike,” squeaked Xander weakly.

The two stood looking at one another. Xander proffered the mug of blood. Spike took the blood slowly. Sipped it.

“Thanks, Xander,” he said cautiously.

Xander bobbed his head nervously. He looked at the doorjamb. “Don’t want you getting hungry. Can’t have hungry vampires walking the halls at night.”

Spike regarded him. There was a long pause. “You worried, Harris?” Spike leaned his free arm against the doorjamb.

Xander looked at the wall next to Spike’s hand. “I could be worried,” he admitted slowly. “Don’t want any biting.”

There was a very long pause. Xander felt Spike studying him. Spike took another sip of blood from the mug and shifted slightly.

“Like I’d bite you,” he said slowly.

“Oh you would. You would. I’m moist and delicious.” He looked Spike straight in the eye. The vampire stared back at him without speaking.

“Yeah,” said Spike. “You been drinking, Harris?”

“No, Spike, that’s not right,” said Xander as if to an idiot, “you always forget your line.” He kept looking steadily at Spike.

Spike stepped back a bit from the doorway. “Yer not drunk?”

Xander held up his bottled water. “I have had nothing today but water. And juice. A little crow. Some humble pie,” he muttered to himself.

“I don’t wanna understand all the weird shit you eat, mate,” said Spike, one eyebrow raised.

“Whoa, and that is coming from you?” Xander looked down for a minute. “So,” he said with a tremendous effort. “You gonna ask me in?”

Spike looked at him. “You sure you ain’t drunk?”

“I am as sober as a judge,” swore Xander.

“Well, come in yer honor,” said Spike, a smile beginning on his face, “or should I just call you ‘nummy treat’?”

“You can call me Mr. Harris,” said Xander, stepping in. He looked around the room. “Spike, I love what you’ve done with the place.”

“Fuck you, Mr. Harris.”

“I swear you are the Martha Stewart of vampires.”

“It just sickens me that I know what yer talkin’ about.”


~*~*~*~*~


Willow stood on the porch and watched the moon. Some time ago, she had begun to think of the moon and Tara as the same entity. Perhaps because she spoke to them both. Maybe because, as her understanding of her power increased, and she began to feel its waning and waxing as part of that cycle, that presence she had always identified peculiarly as Tara, which waxed and waned on a cycle as well, had become blended in her mind; so that when she spoke to the moon, she felt she was speaking to Tara, and when she gazed at the moon, she felt the warm loving gaze of her lover shining down on her as well.

Tara was waning, and Willow felt the ebb particularly this evening. The last few days had been intensely draining. She had had to absorb so much energy, give away so much power and protect so many, she felt thin with exhaustion. She didn’t want to have this meeting with Giles and Maurice. She could feel the younger Watcher’s grief and sickness like a sucking draw from the house. It felt like it could pull the pith from her bones. She looked down the street and was relieved to see Giles approaching. Whether intentionally or not, Giles gave her strength. It must be the warlock in him, but sometimes, Willow thought, Giles felt like a woman.

“You look like something otherworldly tonight, Willow,” he said warmly. He drew her arm into his without asking, and accepted the weight she leant on him easily.

“I hope you mean that in a Venusian sex goddess way, and not some hell-dimensiony wrinkly skinned way.”

“Of course.” Giles rang the bell. “Though I’ve always thought the Hecate aspect had its charms.”

“You would,” laughed Willow, feeling a little of the stress leave her.

The door opened. Maurice stood looking stiffly at them for a minute, then seemed to recall what was required of him, and stepped aside. Willow did not miss the glitter as his glance passed over her. Maurice held with the old school Council belief that witches were suspect allies in the war against evil. He was never comfortable in her presence, and his emotional fragility obviously made him less so. It would make it just that much more difficult for Willow to give him what he needed.

“I made tea,” said Maurice awkwardly. He waved vaguely towards his living room.

Willow brought a bundle out from her skirt. “I brought tea biscuits,” she said smiling.

Maurice gave her a wary look and stood regarding the offering without moving, until Willow withdrew the gift and swept off towards the kitchen. “I’ll just put them on a plate for you, Maurice,” she said sweetly.

Maurice nodded and walked back into the living room. Sat down wearily and vaguely began sorting through a pile of folders and typewritten papers. “I have my final reports here,” he said dully without meeting Giles’ eye. “I’ve forwarded the preliminaries to the Council headquarters by fax.”

“Yes,” said Giles. “They’ve called me.”

Maurice ceased his fussing and leant his arms tiredly on his knees. He sighed. “I’m sorry Giles, I know your feelings. But this has to be seen less personally. The demon is dangerous.”

“Spike is not dangerous.” Willow came into the room. “Except to evil demons.”

Maurice bristled. “You may feel comfortable with him. You think of him as a human; you let him live in your homes. You keep blood for him in your kitchens!” He shook his head. “You’ve lost your perspective. You’ve become too subjective.”

“There is nothing but perspective, Maurice,” said Willow sternly, “and subjectivity is what makes us more than fleshy computers.”

“You know what I’m talking about,” said Maurice testily. Willow sat next to him and lay her hand gently on his.

“I know you’re going through too much, right now,” she said as kindly as she could. “I know that you are a man who wants to do what’s right.” Maurice pulled his arm away. Willow sighed. “When we have pain, it seems that everything is so clear. I know. I remember.”

“Thank you for the philosophy lesson, Mistress Willow,” said Maurice coldly. Willow looked at him sadly, then she looked to Giles for help.

“We didn’t come to argue with you, Maurice,” said Giles slowly. “We were hoping you would consider sending an addendum to your report. The Council should be aware of all the good Spike has done, they …..”

“What good has he done? He distracted Brandy, he tired her when it was unnecessary, his presence was a continual irritation.” Maurice shakily straightened his papers and gathered them up. “And even if he were stable and helpful at this time, wasn’t that the argument put forward regarding that other souled vampire, Angelus?”

“Yes,” said Giles regretfully.

“I seem to recall it was you people who supported his usefulness to the Council as well.”

“It’s true,” Giles said unhappily. Willow looked from him to Maurice. “That was totally different,” she protested.

“How is it different, Mistress?” hissed Maurice. “The soul drove him mad. How will you prevent the same thing happening with this Spike creature? He seems partially insane already,” he added as an afterthought.

Willow and Giles were silent. Giles sat down slowly on the sofa. He looked very tired. “I found Cordelia, you know.” He looked at Maurice. “A young woman I knew. She was one of the people working with Angel.” He looked back down at his hands. “I found her where he had imprisoned her. She had been tortured for some time…” he drifted off.

Willow took a deep breath. The pain in the room was making it hard to breath. “Maurice, we respect your grief.”

“Thank you,” Maurice said with bitterness. “I wish you would have left me to it.”

Willow stood with a great effort. “Giles, I think I should leave.” Giles made to take Maurice’s arm but was rebuffed. He stood also. “I’ll walk you home, Willow,” he sighed.

They left Maurice staring at his paperwork on the coffee table.

“He was so attached,” said Willow achingly, “his pain is almost unbearable.”

“His attachment was a problem, I think,” said Giles, “his is the pain of a man with too much unresolved.”

He put an arm around Willow. “I don’t think it’s something that can be healed easily. Even by you.”


~*~*~*~*~


“I don’t believe you.” Xander was laughing helplessly. He was lying on his back near the fireplace, pounding on the floor with one hand while wiping the tears from his face with the other.

“Hey! Warrior for Truth and Light here, whelp! I do not lie,” said Spike, with one virtuous hand over his heart. He was leaning against the balcony doorjamb. The smoke from his cigarette fanning outside. “That glop was stuck so badly to those precious boots of hers, every step she took sounded like a giant elephant fart! But she wouldn’t let anyone cut them off. So stomp stomp , all across the parking lot she goes.”

“God! God! I wish I’d seen it!”

“Oh, luv, ask anyone in Sunnydale! Half the bleedin’ town saw it! She was so embarrassed I thought she’d stake me just outta spite. ‘Cept she couldn’t get to me in those damn gloppy boots.”

“Poor Buffy,” wept Xander, hiccupping, “she was always so worried about what everybody thought.”

“Yeah. Well,” Spike flicked his ash, sobering, “’s cuz she cared so much, pet.” He smiled to himself sadly. “Wasn’t her strength that made her so hard ta beat, ya know. Was her heart.”

Xander rolled onto his stomach and studied Spike. Until this night, he hadn’t heard the vampire speak of Buffy since her death. “She was special.”

“Yeah.” Spike was looking out on the balcony. He still had a soft smile on his lips. Moonlight and streetlight glowed on pale, flawless skin, casting dark shadows under the severe cheekbones. Xander allowed himself to enjoy the view for a moment. His eyes swept over the profile to those pink lips. He had a mouth like a little boy, Xander thought, in a sudden agony of attraction. He wiggled uncomfortably on the hard floor and tried to distract himself. He looked at the empty fire grate.

“You ever light a fire?” He looked over at Spike. The vampire was regarding him speculatively, his eyes wary. Oh God, thought Xander, he can smell that I want him.

“Not really wanting to risk it, Xan,” Spike said slowly. He looked down and carefully stubbed out his cigarette. “Might think it’d be nice sometimes. Might be nice all that warmth. But not a temptation I can afford.” He rolled his head back against the wall and looked at Xander through narrowed eyes.

“It might be worth the risk,” Xander said, feeling the meaning of each word, “if you think about what you’re doing first. If you’re careful.”

“Yeah,” said Spike thoughtfully. He looked back out at the moonlight on the balcony. “Well, I haven’t had many good experiences with fire, mate.”

“It can be really beautiful. And comforting sometimes.” Xander heard his voice sounding girlish and stopped.

Spike was gazing at him with so many emotions skittering across his face, Xander couldn’t track them. Fear, he saw. Distrust. Of course. Maybe something else? God. Please.

“Moth to the flame, I think,” said Spike.

“Yeah,” said Xander, feeling suddenly miserably unhappy. “You’re probably right.” He forced himself to sit up. Looking away from Spike and into the empty grate. “Seems a shame,” he murmured.

“Yeah, well, see the problem with fire.” Spike had risen and was walking around the room slowly. “The problem with fire is, it just doesn’t know what it’s doing.” He stopped in the middle of the room, looking at Xander. “Ya know, you can’t just say to fire, ‘uh listen mate, I won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt me’; it just doesn’t care. It doesn’t know what it is,” said Spike softly. “It just burns.”

Xander looked up at Spike from the floor; the vampire seemed so far above him. And Xander was a man at the bottom of a well reaching up. “I won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt me?” he said in a wavering voice.

Spike remained motionless. “You can’t say that, Xander.”

“No,” Xander said slowly, hoping Spike couldn’t see how badly he was shaking. “No. But I can say that I’ll try, Spike.” He looked at the other man pleadingly. “I’m trying, Spike.”

Spike was desperate. How many times do you fall from a tree before you say you’ll not climb it again? How could he trust this man? Xander was trying to read his face. What he saw there must have discouraged him, because he looked at the floor suddenly. Ran his hand over his hair.

“I know. I know I don’t deserve...” Xander whispered, his voice choked. “Christ, what a loser.” He wrapped shaking arms around his knees tightly, trying to steady himself, then glanced up and gave Spike that self-deprecating smile, eyes bright. “What a loser I am. Huh?”

Spike could swear he felt his unbeating heart wrench in his chest. “Yeah,” he said. “A real tosser.” Xander gave a tight little nod of agreement, closing his eyes. He turned half away. He looked, to Spike, like a tiny ball of unhappiness sitting there before the empty fireplace. Spike could see how Xander was shaking, could hear his heart pounding hard. He had an overwhelming urge to step forward and just wrap his arms around Xander. But he didn’t. He was too afraid.

Xander was at a loss for the hundredth time that day. He felt he was caught up in some dense dark shrubbery. Everywhere he pushed just made the darkness more difficult and he didn’t know which way to turn to find his way out. He hadn’t the strength anymore. He was sure it was going to overwhelm him and just swallow him up.

“Spike,” Xander said helplessly. With horror he felt tears squeezing from his eyes and down his cheeks. He swiped at them angrily with shaking hands. “God. Spike.”

And Spike was holding him. Holding him up. Surrounding him and supporting him. Strong hard muscles wrapped around him. Soft voice in his ear, cool hands firmly stroking his hair, shushing him, whispering his name, whispering that it was all right. That everything was going to be all right. Xander turned towards that voice, pressed himself into those arms, and felt himself pulled out of the dark place. Felt something cool and clean and bright and he wrapped his arms around it and didn’t let go.

Spike held Xander in his arms and cradled him. He lifted the man to the bed, sat down and let Xander bury himself against him. He murmured his name over and over, trying to heal whatever this was with his voice, trying to soothe whatever was wrong with his hands. Xander was shaking and hot. Spike ran his hands over and through Xander’s hair and Xander turned his face into the touch. His lips sought the palm of Spike’s hand and mouthed at it blindly, and Spike drew in sudden unneeded air. Xander’s mouth came around Spike’s thumb and suckled it, and Spike moaned and bent into Xander’s body and pulled Xander’s face around to his and fastened Xander’s mouth to his lips.

Xander’s mouth was chocolate and salt. Spike drank the taste of Xander, his tongue gently caressing the other man’s. He moved his lips over Xander’s, relishing the tang of tears, the slight bristle of beard like sandpaper on his upper lip. He could feel Xander’s heat and he could feel him shaking. He pulled back and looked into feverish, wet eyes. “Okay?” he whispered hoarsely.

“Maybe.” Xander stared back at Spike, stunned. A trembly smile pricked the corner of his mouth. “Never done that before, ya know.”

Spike regarded with affection the lunatic in his arms. “Xander,” he sighed, “I was there, pet.”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t. Not really,” Xander said sadly. “First time I ever … you know. Sober.” He grimaced at his own stupidity and glared at Spike’s chin.

Spike folded the warm body closer to his own. He buried his face in Xander’s neck just below his ear and just breathed in. “Yeah,” he said. “I know.” He pulled back and smiled. “Kind of a first for me too, all this.”

“I’m the only guy you ever…uh, you know. I’m the only one?” Xander asked surprised.

“Well, yeah.”

Xander indulged in a little masculine preening. “Not even Angel?”

“Gah!” Spike recoiled, then shivered “Eeew, Xander. You want anything to ever happen in this bed, you will NOT mention that name in that context again. Bleh!” He shivered again reflexively.

“Is something going to happen in this bed?” Xander asked shyly.

Spike stilled. A little frown line appeared above his nose. “Dunno.” Vulnerability warred with the lust in the wide blue eyes. “Is it?” he asked huskily.

Xander studied him seriously. “Shouldn’t be a big deal, ya know,” he said slowly. “Be stupid of me to pretend anymore.” He wrapped his arms around Spike’s back a bit further and nuzzled the vampire’s neck with his head. “Can’t resist you.”

Spike didn’t respond to the cuddle. “’S a big deal to me, Xander,” he said in a low voice.

Xander pressed his face against Spike’s neck and the vampire closed his eyes, luxuriating in the feel of the silky hot hair against his skin. He felt Xander shudder and press into the contact. “Xander,” Spike whispered, “stop a minute.”

“Please.” Xander wrapped his arms around Spike’s neck and pulled him close. His mouth wrote a line of warm, wet kisses up the vampire’s neck. “Please, Spike.”

“Xander, wait.” Spike pushed back, creating a space between their bodies. Xander was wriggling against him, arousal pouring from him. Spike shook himself a bit to clear his head. “Xander, I can’t do this again.”

“What?” The face that turned up to his, muzzy with desire, pupils dilated in black eyes, mouth slightly open, cheeks flushed, was almost more than Spike could resist.

“I can’t do this, Xander,” Spike ground out. “Not like this. I can’t just … I can’t be with you … not just … not like this.”

“Oh.” Clarity returned slowly to Xander’s eyes. Embarrassment began seeping in. “Oh, yeah. Christ.” Xander straightened up a bit, pulled away from Spike. Sheepish grin, no eye contact. “Course. Fuck. What was I thinking. Sorry,” he finished quietly.

“You said no already,” Xander admitted ruefully. “I just wasn’t listening.”

“I didn’t say no,” said Spike. “I said I can’t. Not like before, at least.”

Xander looked at him.

Spike took a deep, unnecessary breath. Bit the bullet. “I. . . I love you, Xander.” He stopped, overwhelmed. “I can’t just fuck you,” he forced out in a tight voice.

Xander sat for a moment. He felt those words sinking into him with all the weight they implied. He waited for the shock. And waited. He looked at Spike. The vampire sat dejectedly next to him. He looked utterly defeated. Xander’s heart turned over. He scooted just a little closer. Spike looked at him. Xander carefully raised an arm and wrapped it once more around Spike. “Okay,” Xander said slowly. “Let’s do it that way, then.” He leaned towards Spike and brushed his lips seductively over the vampire’s chin, ghosted his mouth. “Let’s make love,” said Xander.




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