Rated R (for some slashyness and language)
Xander and Spike start hanging out together out of boredom and, well, things happen.
Oh yeah, there's also this little problem that pops up when Buffy goes to visit dad for the summer and leaves Xander and Giles in charge of the Hellmouth.

Meet The Master


Part One

"No." Xander rolled over on his side and presented his back to the annoyance currently in his room.

Spike simply walked to the other side of the bed and looked down at the boy. "Oh, come on, Xander! It'll be fun."

"I said no, Spike, and I mean it." Burying his head under the pillow, Xander hoped to block out the voice.

The vampire pulled the pillow away from the dark head and held it away from Xander's outstretched hand. "Why not? It's not like you have anything else to do."

"I do have things to do, I'm just resting until I go do them. So go away." Once again, Xander rolled over and tried to ignore Spike.

"Yeah, I can see how busy you are, what with you laying in bed and all."

"Do I have to pull out the pointy stick to get you to leave?" With a sigh, Xander sat up and glared at Spike.

"Look at it this way: You'll be learning something about vampires that even the Slayer doesn't know. Maybe even be able to use it to save the day sometime."

Xander shook his head. "Nope, not going to work."

"Fine. I guess I'll just have to play dirty then. How about you come with me or I tell demon girl just why you don't want to have sex every night anymore?"

Xander dropped his eyes and picked at the loose threads on the quilt. "I don't know what you're talking about, Spike."

Feeling that victory was finally within sight, Spike pressed on. "Oh no? Well, how come demon girl isn't here right now, hmm? And how long was she here last night? The night before?"

Xander's head shot up. "Hey! That has nothing to do with me! Anya has been spending time with Willow, Tara and Buffy because she wants friends. I didn't tell her to stay away."

"And she has this sudden need for friends because….."

"I don't know…" Xander began uncertainly before catching himself. "It's none of your business anyway! I'm glad that she's trying to fit in more and make friends. I'm happy that she wants to do sleepovers and shop and talk about… whatever it is that women talk about when they're together…"

"Yeah, sure, right. Whatever you say. So, you come with me tonight and I won't tell demon girl why, even when she is here, you don't want to have sex."

How could Spike possibly know any of this? He'd barely admitted the problem to himself, there was no way Spike could know. "And just how is it that you know any of this, anyway? You psychic now?"

"I'm a vampire. I lurk, I listen, I blackmail."

He doesn't know anything, he's bluffing. Xander felt somewhat relieved. "Remind me again why I'm not supposed to stake you?"

A self-satisfied smile appeared on Spike's lips. "None of you lot really wants to stake me. You'd miss me if you did that."

"Uh huh. Try again." Xander flopped back down onto the sofa bed and pulled the quilt up to his chin. It's not fair! Everyone else is off doing things, having a life, and I'm stuck here waiting for my not-so-demony anymore, almost like a real girl-girlfriend to decide she wants my company. Damn! This has got to stop!

"You know what? Never mind. Turns out I do feel like going out after all. So, let's just go." Xander threw the covers back and got out of bed, still fully dressed except for his shoes.

Spike's lip curled in disgust at the flowery shirt. "You can't go dressed like that."

"What's wrong with what I have on?"

"Day-glo colors tend to attract attention and will definitely alert the prey."

"Fine. I'll change. But if this is some kind of trick…." Xander let the threat hang as he crossed the room to the chest of drawers.

"I just want to hunt, Xander and it's just not as much fun doing it alone.. especially since I can't actually kill anyone. But I promise you'll have so much fun you'll be begging me to take you again tomorrow."

With a snort of disbelief, Xander began digging through the drawers for something to wear that was a single dark color. 'Cause I'm going hunting…with Spike.. I hate my life.

Xander looked up from the bowl of cereal that was his dinner and scowled at the intruder. "Not you again!"

"You had fun last time, didn't you?" Spike flopped down into what he thought of as his sleeping chair and lit a cigarette.

"No." Xander continued munching on his Capt. Crunch and went back to watching the television.

"You are a very poor liar."  

"Spike, I did not have fun. Where was the fun in slogging through dirty, smelly alleys, getting scratched up from our little sojourn into the woods, stepping in a pothole the size of a Buick and twisting my ankle and then nearly getting my head ripped off by a demon you just had to piss off?"

"The pothole wasn’t that big, you're just clumsy. But you did have fun. A person not having fun does not look like you did. You enjoyed yourself, despite the few mishaps."

"I'm not debating this anymore. Go. Away."

"I'll let you in on a few more vampire secrets."


"We'll stay out of the woods."


"We could pick up some birds instead of hunting."

"I don't need a 'bird', I have one. No."

"We won't get into that again. I'll teach you how to fight so the Slayer doesn't try to leave you behind all the time."

"What part of 'No' don't you understand? Are you suicidal again? Is that it? Are you trying to drive me so nuts that I'll stake you?"

"You are really repressed, Xander."

"What? What does… never mind, I don't think I want to know."

"You are afraid of enjoying yourself too much. Afraid you'll find something you like and then it'll be taken away. You liked hunting. You liked being out with me. You had fun lurking about and being the dangerous thing in the shadows instead of the victim for a change."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do."

"You aren't going to leave until I agree to go with you, are you?"


"This time I get to pick where we hunt, got it?"

"I don't think you've really gotten the concept of hunting down yet."

"You hunt your way, I'll hunt mine. Now shut up."

"But this is a supermarket!"

"You agreed that I could pick the hunting grounds and I'm hunting up some Twinkies, peanut butter and juice. Why don't you go bully the butcher into giving you a snack?"

"Is this going to be the sum total of the hunting tonight?"

"If you don't stop bugging me, yes."

"Fine. I'll be out front. But if you're not out there in fifteen minutes, I'm going without you." Spike stomped away, pushing a stock boy out of his way as he went. After a yelp of pain and a string of unidentifiable curses, he was finally gone.

"Okay, Twinkies, aisle six. Peanut butter, aisle four and juice, aisle ten. Right." Xander slipped a basket over his forearm and went hunting.

"Will you stop with the crinkle, crinkle?"

"I need my energy. Some of us are not of the un-dead variety you know." Xander shoved a Twinkie into his mouth and chewed vigorously. "What are we hunting, anyway?" he asked around what remained in his mouth.


"Depends? We're hunting adult diapers?"


"Never mind, just fill me in a little, would you?" After taking out a juice box from the backpack at his feet, Xander leaned back against the wall and speared the drink with the straw. The alley they'd been lurking in for the past twenty minutes was, as far as he could tell, a very low traffic area. They hadn't seen one single person, vamp or demon, just the occasional rat.

"I meant, it depends on how far you're willing to go, how serious about this you are."

"Still needing a few more specifics over here." He tossed the empty juice box in the general direction of the dumpster and leaned over and picked up his pack.

Spike huffed in irritation but bit back the harsh retort that was on the tip of his tongue. "Do you want some real action or do you just want to play at this? Do you want a fight or just scare the piss out of someone? Do you bloody well want to have some fun or not?"

"Oh. Well, why didn't you just say so?" Xander hoped that Spike hadn't been able to see the grin he couldn't stop at the vampire's exasperation. It really was just too much fun getting on Spike's nerves. "Um.. well… I guess if it won't get me killed or anything, we could go hunt something evil that needs a good killing. Oh, wait.. that would be you, wouldn't it?"

"Ha fucking ha. Very witty. Now will you answer the damn question?"

"I did. Let's go kill something evil -besides you- and try not to get me killed."

"Well, that would leave us with a two pound possessed puppy or maybe a really determined pair of demonic lemmings."

Xander snorted. "At least I could hold my own against a ten year old wielding a bat, unlike some vampires in this alley."

"Wielding? Been at the Watcher's thesaurus have you? Look, are we going to trade insults all night or are we going to actually get to the having fun part?"

"I'm having fun, you're the one with the short attention span." Xander swung his backpack up to his shoulder and stepped further away from the wall. "But this alley is a little rank and I wouldn't mind getting out of it. So, where to?"

Spike narrowed his eyes and tried to make out Xander's expression in the darkness. "You're actually trusting little ol' me to pick the target? How do you know I won't pick a fight and then leave you to it?"

"You may be evil but, no matter what the other demons say, you're not stupid. Besides, who would you have to annoy when you got bored if you let me get killed?"

Spike shrugged and turned towards the mouth of the alley. The boy had a point about that. And Spike knew he wouldn't last a day if the rest of the Scoobies knew he'd gotten Xander killed. Even if they ignored him he was still one of them. "Come on then, let's find a not-too-dangerous-for-Xander demon."

"Ow! Watch it!" Xander pulled away from the hands trying to get his shirt off.

"You have a dislocated shoulder, idiot. I need to be able to see to pop it back in."

"No popping! There will be absolutely no popping of any of my body parts!"

"You want to go to the hospital then?"

"No. Be a little hard to explain claw marks way too big for a dog." With his good hand, Xander pulled at the hem of his partially shredded t-shirt. After a few seconds of tugging and lifting he dropped his hand and sighed. "Fine, help me get this off, would you?"

"My pleasure."

"Better not be," Xander mumbled. He lifted his right arm to help Spike maneuver his shirt off and didn't comment when the neckline nearly strangled him going over his head. Or when the material scraped across the four long, still oozing blood, gashes on his back.
But he couldn't hold back the gasp when the material slid over his left shoulder.

"Sit down on the bed and brace yourself. I'm going to have to pull real fast and hard and then push it back in place."

"Why do I have to be on the bed?" Xander asked suspiciously.

"'Cause when you pass out from the pain, I don't want to have to haul your ass off the floor. Now sit down and stop whining."

Xander sat as instructed and grabbed onto the bed frame under the thin mattress. "You've done this before, right?"

"Yeah, pretty regularly for a while there… Don't worry, pet. You'll only be in agonizing pain for a minute or two. Once it's back where it belongs your shoulder will be sore but it won't hurt."

Xander didn't bother asking what 'pretty regularly for a while there' meant because Spike had already taken a hold of his arm. There was a white hot flash of pain, the feeling of bone against bone and then blessed numbness as his shoulder literally popped back into place.

"There. All done. Wasn't so bad, was it?" Spike grinned as Xander heaved a sigh of relief and experimentally rolled his shoulder.

"You could have warned me you were going to start, but, no, it wasn't so bad." He looked over at the smug face and mumbled, "Thanks."

"Lie down on your stomach and we'll see about those nasty claw marks next."

"You're only doing this because you know it's all your fault that I got hurt and you don't want me to tell Buffy."

"Think what you want, but it wasn't my fault that you didn't bring the proper weapons for the job. Now lay down."

Xander ignored the command and stayed upright. "It's my fault that you didn't bother to mention that we'd be fighting one of the few demons on the planet that can only be killed using bamboo? I mean, who carries bamboo around with them? I got wooden stakes, I got crosses, holy water, even a nice high silver content knife, but bamboo?"

"If you'll remember, I didn't pick the fight. He jumped out of the bushes at us. And I did tell you to run towards the Japanese Gardens. Now lay down."

"Yeah, without telling me why! From now on, you need to be a little more specific in your commands. If you'd said, 'Run toward the Japanese Gardens because we need bamboo', I might have actually done it. But no, you still think you can just order people around and they'll obey without question. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I don't trust you."

Spike rolled his eyes and snorted in amusement. Even with the tantalizing smell of Xander's blood in the air he was having too much fun arguing with the boy to take any real offence at his words. "I'll try to remember that next time. But since I don't fancy having to explain to Slutty why I let you bleed to death on your own bed, will you please lay your ass down and let me look at your back?"

Xander's eyes widened and he reached around with one hand to feel his back. His hand came away smeared with blood and he paled. "I'm still bleeding?"

"Not as much as before." Spike leaned over and snatched Xander's t-shirt off the floor, holding it up for the boy to see. "This soaked up quite a bit. You didn't feel it?"

"I guess my shoulder hurt more." Xander stared at his hand for a moment and then tried to grab the shirt out of Spike's hand to wipe it.

Spike tossed the shirt away before Xander could grab it. "No need to waste it."

"Huh?" But he got his answer when Spike wrapped his fingers around Xander's wrist and brought the blood smeared hand to his mouth. Xander resisted but Spike was stronger. He could only watch, eyes wide, as Spike delicately and with obvious pleasure, licked his hand clean.

When it was over, Xander shivered and stared at his own hand in amazement. Who would have thought that hands could be so sensitive that way?

"Now lay down." Spike's voice was a little husky but he didn't figure that Xander would notice since he was still staring at his hand like it was a biology experiment. "XANder!"

Xander blinked a few times and shifted his gaze to Spike. "Oh, right, laying down."

He toed off his shoes and crawled up on the bed, flopping face down once his head was near the pillow. He heard Spike moving around behind him and then the sofa bed creaked as the vampire shifted his own position.

"Doesn't look too bad. I don't think you'll need stitches or anything. Do you have any of those little butterfly things to hold the edges together?"

"In the bathroom cabinet. Spike?"


"Why did you… how come it… why didn't I…" he trailed off, unable to ask any of the questions he had.

"Why did I lick your hand when I said I wouldn't even bother to bite you if I could? How come it felt so good and why didn't you think it was disgusting?"

"Yeah." Xander buried his head in his pillow and hoped Spike couldn't see how embarrassed he was. There must be something really wrong with him if he was getting turned on by Spike licking his hand.

This was an unexpected opportunity to humiliate and degrade but was it worth the momentary satisfaction as opposed to the possible long term benefits of handling it a little differently? Xander really was a good companion when he was away from the influence of the Slayer and the witch. And Spike didn't exactly have a gaggle of other people waiting around to entertain him. So… "You're not the moron you pretend to be, you already know the answers. Don't move, I'll be right back."

The bed shifted again as Spike headed to the bathroom. Xander could hear him rummaging around in the medicine cabinet, the water turning on and off and then he was back.

"Do you know that you have everything except disinfectant in there? The way you lot get into scraps you'd think you'd own gallons of the stuff." Spike sat down on the edge of the bed and started wiping the dried blood off Xander's back with a wet washcloth.

"I usually get patched up at Giles' and trust me, he does have gallons of the stuff." Xander fell silent except the occasional hiss of pain whenever Spike got too close to one of the gashes. If he closed his eyes and kept quiet, maybe he could pretend it wasn't Spike behind him, gently washing his back like he really cared if Xander got an infection or not.

"They're still bleeding a bit, do you want me to go ahead and close them up or leave them for now?"

"Giles always said to leave those kind of things open until they stopped bleeding. Something about letting the body get rid of any ooiges the demon might have had on his claws."

After a pause, Spike cleared his throat and asked, "Giles said 'ooiges'?"

Xander chuckled and shook his head against the pillow. "Well, no. I don’t understand half of what he says when he's in lecture mode but I think that was the gist of it." When Spike didn't say anything after a few minutes, Xander turned his head the other way to see why he was so quiet all the sudden.

Spike was in full vamp mode, staring at Xander's back, almost shaking from the control it took to keep from falling on the boy and sucking him dry. Well, at least trying to suck him dry until the chip went off and caused his head to explode. There was no way anyone could have thought of a worse torture than this. So close to the thing that defined his world and yet, unable to have it. Being unable to have human blood didn't usually hit him so hard, but having it literally right in front of him, the delicious smell surrounding him, having tasted just a little…

"You can if you want. I mean, I know I probably don't taste that great but… you did fix my shoulder and stuff and…"

Spike snapped his eyes up to meet Xander's to see if he was serious. "Trust me, pet, you taste wonderful." Without giving the boy time to change his mind, Spike flattened himself to the bed and set his tongue to work lapping up every drop that oozed out of the four gashes.

Xander yawned, cracked open his eyes and remembered just in time not to stretch. It had been two nights since he'd fallen asleep while Spike licked his back. Two nights since he'd last seen the biteless wonder. Not that he'd gone looking for him or anything, or that he even really wanted to see him… Still, he'd been a strangely, disturbingly, disappointed when he'd woken up after a few hours and found him gone.

Reaching around awkwardly, Xander gently probed what remained of the gashes. Not anywhere close to completely healed but it felt like they'd healed enough to take off the butterfly thingies. Of course it would help tremendously if he could see the damn things but since there was no full length mirror down here, he'd just have to go by touch.

It didn't really surprise him that he was healing faster than normal. It was much easier to just assume it was some kind of vampire thing and let it go at that. There was no way he was going to ask Spike to explain it because that would mean bringing up the fact that he'd let a vampire lick him in the first place… and that he'd enjoyed it. And it wasn't like he could really go ask Giles about this kind of thing, either.

The phone on the end table rang and Xander snatched it up before it could ring a second time.

'I just wanted to let you know…'

"Anya?" Xander interrupted. "Anya, where the hell are you calling from? I can barely hear you over the racket."

'The bus station. Listen, I wanted to tell you…'

"What are you doing at the bus station?"

'If you would stop talking, I will tell you. Buffy is going to see her father in L.A. and I'm going with her. We're all going shopping at some store that is very expensive.'

"Who is 'we'?"

'Haven't you been listening? Buffy, Willow, Tara, Cordelia and I are going shopping in L.A. So I wanted to tell you we would not be able to have sex until I get back. Oh, and Buffy said you and Giles will have to patrol until she gets back. Not tonight, though, she already did her stuff before we got to the bus station.'

"Right. Fine. Have a good time."

'You sound angry. Why are you angry?'

"I'm not angry. Go have a good time with your friends and I'll see you when you get back." He hung up the phone before she could say anything else that would make him angry.

"Who was that?"

Xander was half-way off the bed before he realized who it was. "Spike! What are.. did you just come from upstairs?"

"Yeah, the folks are out and Uncle Rory is snockered. Nicked some ice cream from the freezer." He held the tub out towards Xander. "Want some?"

"No, I don't want any ice cream. What were you doing upstairs?"

"I told you, I was getting ice cream. Who were you talking to on the phone that's got you so pissy?"

Xander pushed himself up on the bed until he was leaning against the sofa back. "It was Anya and I'm not pissy. I just don't like to wake up to a girlfriend going off to have fun without me and getting the crap scared out of me by ice cream stealing vamps. What time is it, anyway?"

"Half seven." Spike sat himself down at the little kitchen table and continued to spoon ice cream into his mouth between sentences. "So, demon girl.. can't even really call her that anymore, can I?" Bite. "I mean, she's gone off and gotten friends and hobbies and such, just like a real girl." Slurp. "Not the least bit exotic or exciting anymore, is it? Oh well, that's the breaks."

"I don't know what you're talking about. Anya's a good girlfriend. I'm glad she's…" The sight of Spike's scarred eyebrow raised and his lips curling up at the edges stopped Xander from continuing. The damn bloodsucker knew entirely too damn much about Xander's tastes. "Okay, fine. I admit it. Once she started being more like a real girl, the passion really wasn't there anymore. But there's more to our relationship than just sex."

"Yeah, sure, whatever." Nibble, slurp. "I'm sure it'll all work out just fine. Before you know it, you two will be happily married with three or four snot-nosed kids, a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and a thirty year mortgage." Bite, swallow. "You'll come home from your sixty hour a week job every night just in time to see the kids snug in their beds before you fall into exhaustion into yours. Yep, sounds like the life you've always wanted."

"No, that's not what… That's not what either of us want."

"Well, I know it's not what you want. But has Anya ever told you what she wants now that she's human? Or have you ever even discussed it with her?" Scrabble against the bottom for the last bits.

"No, not exactly, but…"

"She's getting real caught up in the human world and the human world is full of helpful advice about what women should want." Mouthful, lick the spoon. "If I were you, I would have some fun while you're still young enough and free enough to do it."

"Okay, Spike. I get your point. And I suppose you know just the sorts of things I should be doing before I enter my own form of hell?"

Spike set the now empty tub of ice cream on the table and stood up. "Well, now that you mention it, I do know of a few things."

Part Two

"You don't think Giles seemed a little suspicious when I said you and I would take patrol tonight?"

"Of course he was suspicious. But if it got him out of doing it, he was willing to let it go. He knows there hasn't been much trouble lately." Spike held up his hand and cocked his head. "There's something just over there behind the crypt."

"Vampire?" Xander swung his pack off his shoulder and shoved his hand inside.

"Yeah, I think so. Just stay here and let me handle this, okay?"

"Why should…"

"Xander! I said I'd help you patrol since I might find something to kill, but I draw the line at killing my own kind for fun."

Xander watched Spike stalk away and disappear behind the crypt. He pulled out a stake and shifted from foot to foot in indecision. Just because they didn't stake Spike didn't mean that the rest of the vamps weren't supposed to be dust. Long minutes passed with Xander no closer to taking any action one way or the other. Soon, the sound of fighting helped clarify things for him.

Rounding the corner, Xander was just in time to see Spike rip the head off the vamp and watch it turn to dust. "I thought you weren’t going to…"

"Yeah, well, he pissed me off. We got another problem, too."

"What, more vamps?"

Spike nodded his head and dug through his pocket for a smoke. "Not only more vamps, another Master. I don't mean like bat face, one like me. Okay, not really like me, there's no one else like me…"

"Will you get past the Spike self-admiration society speech and tell me what the problem is?"

After he lit his cigarette and took a long drag, mostly just to annoy Xander, Spike finally explained. "Seems that while Slutty was doing the horizontal mambo with soldier boy almost non-stop these last few weeks, a new Master has moved himself and his minions into town. He's kept real quiet-like till now since he somehow knew that Slutty left last night and would be out of town all week. And no, it wasn't me that told him."

"Do you know this Master guy?"

"Nope, never heard of him. Must be pretty young."

"I guess we better get back to Giles' and call Buffy. She can be here by morning."

"By then it'll all be over and Buffy will have a dead Watcher and a firmly entrenched vampire army to fight. This guy is serious and has a schedule. He's planning on turning as many people as he can, starting with anyone who could be of help to the Slayer and moving on through the police, army and any other authority figure he can find."

Xander swore once and then sat down hard. "I.. we.. Buffy.. Fuck."

"My sentiments exactly. I don't know how I missed it. He must have really obedient minions because I haven't caught a whiff of even one until tonight. And that is not good." Spike squatted down in front of Xander and finished his cigarette. Once he tossed it away, he sighed, stood, and held out his hand to the boy. "Well, come on. We have things to do."

"You're.. you're going to help?"

"No damn uppity vamp is going to try to take over my town and get away with it."

"Your town? Since when?" Xander put his hand in Spike's and let the vampire pull him to his feet.  

"Since I said so. Now, are you with me or not?"

"Yeah, I'm with you. I don't know what the hell I can do against a Master vamp and his army of evil un-dead, but yeah."

Spike started walking towards the docks where the now dusted vamp had said the Master had set up shop. "Well, I figure the only way to really stop this is to kill Master whats-his-fang and the only way to do that is to get close to him pretty damn quick. Since we don't have time for me to work my way up the ranks or even to challenge him outright…."

Xander's eyes got really wide and he stopped walking. "No. Absolutely not. No way, not in a million years. I. Will. Not. Be. Bait. Been there, done that, not fun."

"You have a better idea? He would never expect a vampire's human pet to have a stake up his sleeve. I can't get that close to him, but you can."


"You'll be the big hero."


"So you want fang-face to take over Sunnydale, kill you and everyone you know and then kill Buffy when she comes back?"

"Well, no… but there has to be some other way… Human pet?"

"I'll explain it some other time but I know you know what I'm talking about. We do sort of have a time limit here, Xander, so if you don't know any other way…."

"Why is it always me? That's what I want to know." Xander sighed in defeat and continued walking towards his doom. "Willow is never bait. Giles is never bait. It's always Xander."

"It's because you're just so moist and delicious." Spike threw Xander's own words back at him and gave him a little shove from behind to keep him from dragging his feet too much.

They reached the dock area and Spike pulled Xander around the corner of one of the warehouses and out of sight of their eventual goal. "Okay, here's how it goes. If you're my pet, you have to listen to me and do every single thing I tell you without hesitation or explanation. Do you understand? If you screw up even once, we're both goners."

"Um… every single thing? What will 'every single thing' be? Nothing gross, right?"

"I won't know until we get in there. If you can't be sure that you can do it, we might as well not even try. So, can you do it?"

Xander swallowed once and then nodded his head. "Yeah, I think I can do it."

Spike shook his head and sighed. "No, Xander. Not 'think' you can do it. It's either yes or no."

"I.. I.. Well, what if he wants me to do something… you know…"

"There won't be time for much of anything, he does have a town to take over in a few hours. As a matter of fact, it would be a good thing if he did wanted to play tonsil hockey or somthin'. No way to get closer to a bloke than… what?" Xander was shaking his head vehemently.

"I can't kiss a...a... guy! And a vampire… Well, that's just… okay, it's just not…"

Spike waived away his objections. "It'll be just like kissing Anya, only a bit colder. What do you have in that pack you lug around with you all the time?"

"Usual stuff." He shoved the pack at Spike and started pacing. "I can handle taking your orders since I know you want rid of this guy. I can handle being all whipped puppy seeming, I can even handle walking into a room full of vamps who would like to suck me dry. But I can't…"

Before he could finish the sentence, Spike shoved him against the wall with a growl of annoyance. "This is the one and only time I'm doing this, so pay attention."

"Pay att..."

Spike's head descended and he pressed his lips to Xander's, gently at first and then with more intensity. Finally, he probed at the tightly pursed lips with his tongue, seeking entry. But the boy stayed stubbornly tense and closed. "Open for me, Xander," he whispered.

Still Xander refused to participate. He wasn't struggling to get away- always a good sign-but he wasn't doing anything to show he liked it either. Time to call out the big guns.

Spike slid his hands slowly down Xander's sides, carefully avoiding the still tender claw marks and around to his buttocks. Taking a firm handful on each side, the vampire pulled the mortal into him, hard. Groin to groin, thigh to thigh, Spike rotated his hips from side to side. A gasp from Xander and Spike was in.

Hot, wet, slightly sweet, and definite signs of interest below the belt. Those were the only sensations Spike was able to register before he felt something sharp pressed up against his chest. He yanked his head back and looked down. Somehow, Xander had managed to wedge a stake between them and press it directly above his heart, all without him noticing.

"Uh... yeah. Like that." Spike carefully released his hold on Xander's ass and stepped back. Kid was a fast learner. "Over your little 'no kissing of male vamps' thing, are you?"

"That was nothing like kissing Anya, not even close." Xander took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay, I can do this. I'm still not liking the plan all that much, but I can do it."

Spike mentally shook off the urge to taunt Xander about his less than repulsed reaction to kissing a vampire. There would be time for that later… if they made it through the next few hours. Back to business. "Glad to hear it. Get two stakes and put them up your sleeves but leave all the other stuff here. No crosses, no holy water, no extra stakes. They'll probably search me and not you but they'll definitely know if you've got a cross or holy water on you."

"You can feel the stuff I have in my pack? It… bothers you?"

"Xander, we can play twenty questions later if you want, right now, just do what I say and shut up. As of right now, you are my human pet. You do everything I say without question, got it?"

Xander glared at Spike for a long seconds and then nodded his head, dropping his eyes. "Yes, I understand."

"Then do it!"

Without another word, Xander picked up the pack from where Spike had dropped it and fished out another stake. While he was at it, he removed the pencil size stake from his sock and the necklace with a tiny gold cross from his front pocket, placing them in the pack. Pack zippered and placed against the wall with the hope of later retrieval, he shoved the stakes up the sleeves of his shirt and wiggled his arms to make sure they wouldn't just clatter out unexpectedly. "Okay, good to go."

Spike nodded once and turned towards the corner of the warehouse.

"Eyes down, don't talk unless asked a direct question, don't touch me unless I touch you first, stay behind me unless I place you somewhere else... um…" Spike tried to think of any other last minute instructions as they weaved their way around the shipping containers. "Oh, and try not to act too surprised by anything I do or say."

"Yeah, I think I get it, Spike."

Spike stopped abruptly and gripped Xander's arm just hard enough to get his full attention. The brunette took a step back from what he saw. Gone was the sarcastic, 'devil may care' attitude Xander was familiar with. This Spike was serious, angry, intense- maybe a little worried- but definitely scary. Even scarier than when he'd been trying kill them all, making cheesy jokes the whole time. Xander thought if this version of Spike had been the one they'd known and hated, there would have been no way they would have taken him in after the chip.

"So you say, but you were walking right next to me and talking back. This isn't a game, boy, and one mistake means death to us both. And if you get us killed before we can kill this guy, everyone you know will be a vampire or dead by tomorrow night."

Xander swallowed hard and tried to fight off the rising panic. I can't do this. It's too important. I'll mess up somehow. I'm not brave, I'm not Buffy, I can't do it, I can't…

"Yes, you can." Spike could almost see the insecurities flitting through Xander's mind and they just didn't have time for it. "You've done much more dangerous things and lived. You can do this, I know you can."


"No buts. Eyes down, stay behind me and no talking. Let's go." Spike continued on his way, smiling slightly when he heard Xander fall into step behind him.

After rounding two more stacks of shipping containers, they met the first guard.

It turned out to be a fairly simple thing to see the big boss alone. He had good security but an appalling amount of trust and, apparently, no real survival instinct. A little name-dropping, some posturing, and a dash of menace and Spike and his human pet were in the office set high above the warehouse floor with Ambrose Peede, Master Vampire and Angelus wanna-be. Spike had never understood the point of ending the world or even taking over the Hellmouth, even if he could. Way too much responsibility and not any time for fun if you had to hold a place like this once you had it and ending the world was kinda, well, the end. Of everything.

All the tension that had built since learning of the plot to take over Sunnydale leaked out of Spike as he faced the so-called Master. The man would be pathetic if it wasn't for the fact that he'd accomplished something that even the most experienced vampire had trouble with: inspiring complete obedience in his minions. It was only that quality that had let this Southern-fried nitwit get as far as he had.

"I apologize fer not checkin' with you first. I didn't realize you were already workin' an angle." Ambrose's eyes flicked over the human standing across the room near the door before returning to the other vampire. "Now, I'm not sayin' yer wrong or nothin', but I know the Slayer got on that bus. You sayin' she came back?"

Spike sighed dramatically and motioned Xander over, hoping the mortal had been able to hear the conversation enough to follow it. "Pet, did the Slayer go visit her da?"

"Not really." Xander waited until Spike nodded and then continued. "She does that sometimes when she knows something is up but doesn't know what. She'll make a big production of leaving and then sneak back into town to see who takes the bait."

Spike smiled at Xander, who knew the boy was such a brilliant bloody liar? "I fell for it once, meself." He pulled the mortal closer, wrapping his arm around his waist and letting his hand rest low on his pet's hip. "No shame in falling for it. Unpredictable chit, can say that for her. That's why I decided to go this other route." He nodded at his pet and shifted his hand downward, palming Xander's ass, squeezing slightly, and was pleased to note that Xander didn't flinch.

Ambrose got up and began pacing, throwing the occasional appraising look at Spike's Human Pet, formerly one of the Slayer's minions. He had to admit, it was a good move, especially if the Slayer didn't yet realize that her friend was givin' it up to the enemy. Of course, Spike had a reputation for being a lying, two-faced backstabber, literally and figuratively. On the other hand, he had survived this town and the Slayer for much longer than anyone before him so maybe there was some method to his madness. After two more turns across the room and back, he flopped down on the edge of the desk. He'd just have to let it play out a little longer and see what happened. "Fuckin' shit. I had this all planned out and now it's goin' to shit."

"It tends to happen around here. Why do you think Angelus finally blew town?"

"I heard the Slayer put the big hurt on him, that's why he up and disappeared. You tellin' me my information is all wrong?" Ambrose's eyes narrowed with the first hint of suspicion. "Matter of fact, I ain't heard nothin' of Angelus since… Well, since I heard tell he got his hands on Acathla."

Spike shrugged carelessly and continued to fondle Xander's ass. "She stopped him from ending the world – obviously- but he decided there was more profit in working another town, left this one to me."

"Another town?"

"L.A. Not a bad place if you don't mind a little competition in the business of evil from the humans." Spike didn't even feel a twinge of guilt about setting Angel up for a little visit from Ambrose if they failed to dust him. "So, enough chit-chat, yeah? You pulling your people or not?"

Ambrose pushed himself further up onto the desk, arms gripping the edge, forehead wrinkled in thought, his legs dangling over the edge, kicking the desk with a repetitive 'thump thump thump' that, along with his slight frame, sandy blond hair and round, smooth face made him look more like the 20-something human he must have been once instead of the century-old vampire that he claimed to be. Spike figured him more for 50 than 100 since vamps were notorious for lying about their age and origins to suit the situation.

The noise was really starting to get to Spike and even Xander had begun shifting in discomfort, though whether that was from having to listen to the thumps or whether it was from dealing with Spike's increasingly bold exploration of the human's anatomy, Spike wasn't sure. But finally, Ambrose nodded to himself and slid off the desk.

"No, I'm not. I've planned this out too well to let it just slide on your say so." He held up his hands in a placating gesture. "You and your pet are welcome to join us though. When it's all over, I'll make sure you get the recognition that is due you at bein' the nominal Master of Sunnydale. But…" He held up a finger and vamped out. "…you'll have to fight me to take over my crew and my town in truth."

Spike felt Xander stiffen next to him and something nudged the small of his back. He subtly pushed the boy slightly behind him, using the distraction of movement to cover the fact that Xander was pressing a stake into his other hand. When he felt Xander let go of the wood and step back, Spike managed to nod agreeably and offer his right hand to the other vampire. "Seems fair."

Ambrose stepped forward and took the proffered hand before remembering just who he was dealing with. He didn't even have a chance to finish saying 'Fuck' before he felt the stake sink into his chest and then he knew no more.

Xander sagged in relief as the last of Mr. Ambrose Peede, ex-vampire, drifted silently to the floor. "Holy shit!"

"Couldn't agree more."

"Did you see that? Of course you did. I thought for sure that he was on to us." Xander leaned back against the wall and slid down until he was an untidy puddle on the floor. "I nearly shit my pants when he vamped out! Oh god, oh god, oh g…"

"Give it rest, eh pet? You did good, kept your cool." The vampire joined Xander on the floor and pulled his cigarettes out of his pocket, lighting up. "If I hadn't been standin' right next to you, I never would have twigged that you were scared."  

Unaccustomed to such obvious praise, Xander didn't know quite what to say and settled for a simple, "Thanks". He took a few deep breaths and studied his hands, watching until they stopped shaking. "So we can get out of here now? It's over?"

Spike shook his head and ground out his cigarette. "Got rid of the ring-master but we still have to deal with the clowns." He flicked his head in the direction of the door and the minions that waited below. "Now that the hick is gone, they probably won't be much of a problem. Unless…"

"Unless?" When the vampire didn't answer right away, Xander punched him in the arm. "Spike! Unless?"

"Ow." Spike rubbed his arm, surprised at the strength behind the punch. "Unless dickweed set up a chain of command. Then we're fucked."

Xander groaned and thumped his head back against the wall. "Why do you say things like that?"

"It's true, innit?"

"That's beside the point. When you say 'fucked' what, exactly, does that mean?"

"Means you won't have to have another hissy fit about sexual preference confusion because you'll be stone cold dead and I'll be getting a tour of Sunnydale via the wind. That's what 'fucked' means."

"It wasn't a hissy fit and I'm not confused." Xander reached over, snatched the pack of cigarettes off Spike's thigh and shook one out. "Got a light?"

"You don't smoke." The vampire plucked the cancer stick out of the boy's hand and replaced it in the pack. "Don't be getting all doomsday on me now, Xander, things aren't that bad."

Xander gaped at the vampire. "You just said we were dead! That's not bad?"

"Don’t be such a drama queen! We don't have enough info about the jokers downstairs to justify committing hara-kiri just yet." He placed his hand on the back of Xander's neck and shook the mortal a few times. "Calm down and let me think, okay?"

Xander pushed his neck further into the cool palm and did as he was told, mind desperately scrabbling for a way to just get the hell out of there. When Spike began to lightly massage his neck, he sighed, mind quieting, and closed his eyes. As he finally began to relax a little, his mind turned to finding a more reasonable solution to the problem of how to neutralize all the hungry vamps downstairs without actually getting himself killed in the process. Unfortunately, he was drawing a blank. They really should have thought of this before they walked into the warehouse. Or at least Spike should have.

"Ya know, I'm really grateful that I didn't end up having to get molested by a stranger in order to kill that vamp but how come you didn't mention the minions when you were convincing me to be bait?"

Spike removed his hand from Xander's neck like he'd been burned. He hadn't realized he was still touching the other man. Later, if they made it out of this place intact, he'd have to have a long talk with himself about the inadvisability of becoming too casually comfortable with this human. "You're a smart guy Xander, you figure it out."

"Didn't think that far ahead, right?" Xander shook his head in disgust and stood. "You're really going to have to work on your impulsive nature, Spike. Especially since it's liable to end up getting me killed right along with you." He began to wander the office, no longer able to sit still, soothing cool hand on his neck or not. "There has to be some way to get rid of a lot of them all at the same time", he mused aloud. "I'd say a bomb or something but we don't have a bomb. Rocket launcher is out, so is a fire truck full of holy water."

"If we had some petrol we could go with the Giles method of vamp lair destruction," Spike added to the list of mass destruction. He shrugged and joined Xander in his pacing. "The only thing I'm coming up with here is for us to go down and bluff."

"Bluff?" Xander threw up his hands, clearly becoming agitated again. "We don't hold any cards to bluff with! We've got a dusty Master and about twenty minions waiting for him to come downstairs so they can go take over Sunnydale. Don't you think they're going to catch on pretty quick when we come down and their boss doesn't?"

"Of course they'll notice!" Now Spike was getting agitated, more in response to Xander than any real fear, but he had to admit that he hadn't really thought this one through too well. "If you have a better suggestion, I'd love to hear it. Now settle down before they come up here to find out what all the yellin' is about."

As if conjured by Spike's words, there was a knock on the door. "Master, you okay in there?"

Both human and vampire froze, staring at the door in terror.

"Master?" There was another knock and the minion jiggled the door handle. "Everyone's ready and waiting for your word to go."

"Do something!" Xander hissed.

Spike grabbed Xander and began pulling his shirt out of his jeans.

"What are you doing!" Xander slapped at the vampire's hands without much success. "Stop it!"

"Strip and lay down on the couch. I have an idea." Spike stopped trying to disrobe Xander and swiftly shucked off his duster and t-shirt, unbuttoned the top three buttons of his jeans and pushed them down so they rode low on his hips. "Come on, hurry up!"

"We're about to die and you want to get naked? Are you insane?" Since the answer to that question was obvious and with no better idea, Xander did as he was told and was quickly down to his boxers.

The minion began to pound harder on the office door and Xander could hear the lock beginning to snap under the pressure. Then he was being shoved back onto the couch, landing with an 'umph', and swiftly covered by a vampire with octopus hands and a very limber tongue. By the time his brain kicked back into gear enough to think about protesting, Spike was already pulling away slightly to look up at the minion who'd finally gained entry to the office.

"What the bloody fuck do you want? Can't you see I'm busy?"

The growl in Spike's voice gave Xander an all-over body shiver and he had to swallow a few times before he could make himself crane his neck back so he could see the minion standing at the end couch above his head.

"I… uh… I apologize for interrupting you." The minion looked around the room. "I thought my Master was in here."

Spike dropped his head back down and licked a path up Xander's neck to his ear. Only then did he answer the minion. "He left a bit ago to check something out. Said he'd be back in time for the festivities. Now. Get. Out."

"Yes. Sorry. No one will disturb you further. Sorry." The minion backed out of the room and shut the door firmly behind him.

Spike sank down onto his human pillow with a sigh of relief. "Well, that answers a coupla questions."

"Wh…What?" Xander was sure his heart wasn't going to be able to take many more of these kinds of shocks. In addition to having to defeat a clan of vampires on the verge of taking over his hometown there was the added stimulus of never knowing when Spike was going to attack, pet, or fondle him next. Granted, Spike's attacks were much more pleasurable than he'd like to admit to himself, but still, shouldn't these kind of discoveries about yourself and your evil vampire sorta-friend be made in a much safer place? "What questions?"

"They know who I am and are well trained enough to respect their elders." Spike snorted lightly against Xander's neck. "We're just lucky that none of them have been in town long enough to hear how far the mighty have fallen."

Other than flicking at a lock of Xander's hair occasionally, Spike didn't seem to be making any effort to move and it never crossed Xander's mind to encourage him to do so. It was weird feeling a body on top of him that mirrored his own is several ways. Not a bad weird, really, just… different. His mind wandered off and began cataloging the differences between them, not yet ready to acknowledge the similarities; like the twin columns of hard flesh pressed together between them, separated by denim and cotton, that seemed to be throbbing in time to Xander's heartbeat. He'd just gotten to comparing muscle definition based on what he could feel under his hands as they traveled the expanse of the vampire's back when Spike shifted slightly and huffed in annoyance.

"Suppose we should get up and get on with it." He pushed himself up and looked down into confused brown eyes. "The minions? Saving the world or something? Any of this ringing a bell?"

Xander blinked, brain belatedly catching up with the situation and he felt the blush that must have started at his toes and worked its way up his entire body. "Uh… heh… yeah. Um… so, could you get off? Up? Of me! Get up off of me!" He was sure that Spike would be using this against him for a very, very long time.

Spike once again resisted the urge to tease Xander about these less than obvious slips in his heterosexuality and simply rolled off the human and stood up. He reached down to pick up his t-shirt without bothering to hide the fact that he'd have been perfectly happy to continue Xander's detour into the unknown if it hadn't been for the present circumstances.

Xander wasn't as confident. He rolled off the couch and gathered up his clothes with his back to Spike, dressing as swiftly as humanly possible. The normal urge to babble when nervous deserted him and he shoved his shoes onto his feet with an unneeded violence. When there was nothing left to tuck, tie, or buckle he took a deep breath and turned around. "So what story are you going to feed them?"

Spike smiled with a confidence he didn't really feel and slapped Xander on the back. "You know me, Xan, I'll just play it by ear."

"I was a afraid you were going to say that." Xander shook his head once again, this time in defeat. "Fine, but just so you know, if you get me killed I will find a way to haunt you."

"I won't let you get killed, okay? So stop saying that." He took Xander firmly by the shoulders and stared until the human finally met his eyes. "I mean it, you're not going to die tonight. You've done really well so far and I have no reason to believe you'll do anything less the rest of the night."

Xander could see the belief shining out of the vampire's eyes. Enough so that he started to believe it too. "Yeah, okay, not going to die tonight. You either, right?"

"Nope, not me either." Spike grinned, wanting to break the tension. "We both have to make it if only so we can rub Buffy's face in it."

Xander grinned back and shook his head. "Oh no, not me. You want to do it, go ahead, I'll stitch you up once she's done with you." Maybe this could end well, after all.

It seemed, to Xander at least, that several hours had passed since the Master had gone bye-bye but in reality, it had only been about one hour. A very long and very tense hour, but only an hour. He lifted his head from Spike's thigh and checked his watch again. An hour and fifteen minutes down and forty-five minutes to go.

Spike must have felt his impatience because he dropped his hand away from his newspaper and stroked Xander's hair. It was meant to be comforting gesture and he decided to interpret it that way, as well as all the other little touches that had transpired since they'd come downstairs, instead of the humiliating way he would have seen them only a day ago.

When they'd first come down, Spike told the 'he went to check something out' story to the entire group. Xander had been tensed, all ready to run, but the vamps just stood there holding various sharp and pointy things for the raid and nodded their collective heads.

It was just as Spike had predicted; with the Master out of sight, they saw Spike as the next senior vamp because that's the way he acted and simply waited for his instructions. Then he'd said they'd wait two hours and, if Ambrose didn't return in that time, they could only assume the worst and delay the raid until they found out what happened. The vamps all calmly set their weapons down and began talking amongst themselves as if it were a cocktail party instead of a raiding party.

So, a huge relief, right? Yeah, except that meant Spike had committed them to staying for two more hours!

Spike had studied the others for a few minutes and then pulled a chair to the center of the cleared area of the floor and sat down. Almost immediately a tall brunette woman had brought Spike a newspaper and asked if he wanted anything to drink.

Xander had held his breath at that, hoping she didn't mean what he thought she meant, but Spike shook his head and asked for a glass of water for his pet. He then motioned Xander over from where he stood frozen five feet away and motioned for him to sit on the floor next to the chair. The floor was a little hard but if he shifted just right, better than standing for two hours.

The vampire chick brought him his water and he'd sipped at it carefully and waited. Soon, the murmur of voices, the quiet rustling of Spike's newspaper and the reduction of adrenalin in his system began to make him sleepy. Almost before he finished thinking 'sleepy', Spike placed his hand on the back of Xander's neck and pulled his head to lay against the vampire's thigh, bending down to whisper in his ear, "Rest but don't sleep. I'll keep watch."

It seemed that small reminder of the situation was all he'd needed because he received another shot of adrenalin to his system that made doing anything more than pretending to rest impossible.

So, now he continued playing the good little human pet by laying his head back down on Spike's thigh with a seemingly languorous sigh.

"Won't be much longer now, pet."

Xander twitched at the feel of Spike's lips against his ear. After a long moment, in which Xander could swear Spike was smelling him, the vampire straightened back up in his chair and went back to reading the same page of newspaper that he'd been on for the last thirty minutes. Either Spike was a very slow reader or…

Shifting his head a little, Xander looked up at Spike's face from beneath his lowered lashes. The vampire was scowling and his jaw was clenched so tight that Xander was surprised he didn't hear teeth pop. He jerked up from Spike's thigh and remembered just in time to pretend to stretch while looking around the room.

Everything was the same as it had been for the past hour. The vamps chatting, mingling and, a few, playing cards. So what was causing that look on Spike's face if it wasn't trouble heading their way?

"Pet? You okay?"

The genuine concern in Spike's voice only served to make Xander more confused. "Yeah, fine. You?"

"Bored." He shrugged his shoulders and folded up the paper he wasn't really reading. "What's say we get the hell out of here?"

Xander nodded enthusiastically, all thoughts of what was bothering Spike swept away. "Still got about twenty minutes to go though."

"Hey! Hey, uh… " Spike snapped his fingers and waived over the vamp that had 'interrupted' them upstairs. While he waited for the vampire to trot across the room, he rolled up the newspaper and began tapping his thigh with it. That seemed to encourage the other vampire to hurry a little faster.

"What can I do for you Master?"

"We're tired of waiting." Spike addressed the rest of his words to the entire group since he now had their attention. "Hold off on the raid until I come tomorrow night. By then I'll know the situation with your Master and the Slayer." He vamped out and growled once, low in his chest. "No one leaves this building until I say so. Understood?"

Xander carefully pushed himself to his feet and looked at the vamps warily as they drifted closer. There were a few who didn't seem to like the way Spike was taking charge so completely but most seemed content to follow his orders.

"What's your name, boy?" Spike demanded of the vamp closest to him.

"Slater, sir."

"Okay Slater, here's the deal. Anybody leaves the building before I arrive tomorrow; you're goin' to tell me. If you don't and I find out, well, you'll be begging me to stake you by the time I'm done with you. Same goes for anybody that does leave. You understand me?"

Xander thought Spike was enjoying this just a little too much but it seemed to be working. The few vamps that had made disagreeable noises about not being allowed to go out quieted right down.

"Yes, sir, I understand, sir. No one will leave before you tell us it's okay. Our Master never had a reason to be disappointed in us and we won't give him a reason to start now." Slater was almost groveling.

It was almost funny although Xander realized that Slater and the others wouldn't think so. Especially if they found out how they were being fooled.

"Good." Spike morphed back into his human face and motioned for Xander to join him. "I don't know what time I'll be getting back here tomorrow, so just wait."

The group nodded their collective heads, spookily synchronized, and Spike led Xander to the door with a hand at the back of the human's neck.

They got about ten feet away from the door and Xander would have relaxed and started babbling, but Spike tightened his grip warningly and they continued their journey in silence until they had cleared the shipping containers and turned the corner to where Xander had left his pack.

"I can't believe we got away! You really did it!"

Spike smirked and nodded his head in acknowledgement of the compliment. "Told ya."

"I haven't been that scared for that long in… well, maybe ever."

"Yeah, you did good though." Spike dug out a cigarette and lit up.

A thought suddenly occurred to Xander. "You aren't really going back there tomorrow and order them to carry out the raid, only for you this time. Right?"

Spike kept his face impassive and continued to smoke.

"Spike? You know you can't, don't you?"

When Spike remained silent and unreadable, Xander once again began to panic. He'd seen what Spike could do, how he could be, when he was around his own kind, and he knew that it really wouldn't be that difficult to just walk in and take over the pack of vampires they'd just left behind.

"Look, I know we haven't been as… accepting as we could have been and we… um… okay, we were actually kind of mean to you for a while there. But, Spike, we're going to be serious about the staking stuff if you go through with this and I thought we were friends now and…"

Spike threw down his cigarette and pulled Xander to him all in one move. He covered the mortals mouth with his hand and shook his head. "Was just messin' with you, ya wanker, so stop babbling and save your breath for explaining all this to Rupert, eh?"


Spike removed his hand and Xander tried again. "What are you talking about?"

"Still got to kill those mean, evil vamps, don't we?"


"So, you're going to need a little help carrying the gasoline or explosives or driving the fire truck filled with holy water when you come back here tomorrow, during daylight hours, and save Sunnydale."


"Yeah." Spike smiled slightly, not his usual smirk, a real smile, and leaned forward slowly. He touched his lips tentatively to Xander's, letting them linger only for a moment before pulling back. "I'm going to miss my delicious and obedient pet… " He sighed and stepped back, releasing Xander, then slapped him on the back in the classic 'guy' way. "… but I think I like plain ol' Xander much better."

"Why did you sto…" Xander blinked few times and then put more space between himself and the vampire, gathering the wits that had scattered as soon as Spike had leaned toward him. He picked up his pack and slung it over his shoulder. Finally, he thought he had enough of himself back to face Spike again. "Yeah, me too. Like plain ol' me better, I mean. All that being quiet and still really sucked. I'd never make it as a real Human Pet."

Xander turned and started back toward town and so missed the slightly disappointed look on Spike's face before the indifferent mask was back in place and the vampire fell into step beside him. "Hmmm… probably not. I mean what with all that attention and touching and rubbing and petting you were getting, not to mention the other benefits we didn't quite get to, I can see how you'd get tired of it pretty fast."

Xander didn't really know what to say to that so he just quickened his step and tried not to hear the slight bitterness in the vampire's tone. The feeling, however brief, of being cared for, taught and protected instead of being the one doing the care taking, had been a nice one. As for the rest… well, he could honestly say that the idea of having sex with Spike was not as objectionable as it would have been even yesterday but that was all he was willing to admit to himself.

Not that the concept hadn't run through his mind several times after the back licking episode but that was as far as he'd gotten; acknowledging that although they were both male, it was possible for them to have sex. Maybe a little bit of new self-awareness had crept in along with that concept but Xander had firmly pushed any additional thoughts on the matter far, far away. Nothing was ever going to happen between them so why bother thinking about it?

In Spike he'd found someone to be a guy with, someone who understood his references and his jokes even if Xander didn't always understand Spike's. Granted, they didn't always get along, but that was okay because that's just the way guys were. Yeah. Guys who were friends. So, Xander hadn't even been sure he wanted anything to happen that would mess all that up.

But it had. Sort of. In a non-home run kind of way. And it had been… different and interesting and… well, something he'd like to explore a little more. Maybe. See if it was the person or the situation that made Xander so completely lose himself every time there had been a touch or caress or kiss or… Nope, not thinking about the rest. So, what next? Ask him on a date? Buy him flowers and a pack of cigarettes? Or should he just go the Anya route and point out that they could possibly have many orgasms together if they found that their parts interlocked satisfactorily?

"Oh, Christ! Anya!"

"Eh?" Spike was pulled from his own introspection and glanced around for the source of Xander's outburst. "Where?"

"No, she's not here. I just…uh… kind of remembered that I have a girlfriend."

Spike looked at the other man like he'd lost some of his marbles on the walk home. "Yeah, I know you have a girlfriend, Xander. What of it?"

"Errr… Just that we'll have to edit some things out of this week's episode of 'Spike and Xander versus Idiot Jed and His Minions' if either of us wants to live through the telling of it."

"I see your point."

Xander nodded, glad they were in agreement, and continued to make his way toward home.

"That the only reason for the editing?" Spike watched for a reaction to his none-too-subtle probe.


"Not because you're ashamed or something?"

"Look, can we wait until we're inside to discuss this?"

Spike positioned himself in front of Xander and stopped. "No, we can't."

Xander sighed and ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "This is becoming more and more like a movie of the week with every passing second. No, I'm not ashamed and I'm not confused and I do have a girlfriend and cheating on her would be wrong, end of discussion. Now, can we get inside?"

"You weren't cheating, you were acting."

"I'm sure Anya would see it that way, too. Not. Now move it or lose it." Xander bumped by the vampire and turned the corner onto his street. At least Spike hadn't seemed to catch the slip in tense on the 'would be wrong' part of his speech. Xander really didn't think of what happened in the warehouse as cheating either, but anything that happened from now on would be.

Only a few more blocks and he could finally rest a little before he had to start thinking again. After sunrise was soon enough to get Giles out of bed and gather what they'd need to make sure all of the Master's minions were taken out. And maybe, if he was really lucky, Spike would see him safely inside and leave so they wouldn't end up falling in bed together as soon as the couch was pulled out.

Part Three

Xander sighed as his basement door closed behind the vampire but he didn't know if it was from relief or disappointment. Somehow, he'd thought that Spike would see how tired he was and insist on staying the rest of the night just to make sure Xander got up after sunrise and went to take care of business. On the other hand, he was glad that the vampire had chosen to leave, thereby removing the temptation that Spike presented just by his presence.

It had been a long night and Xander's head was buzzing with conflicting thoughts and desires.

He thought he still loved Anya but the passion just wasn't there anymore and her demanding personality was losing its appeal.

He thought he still, basically, hated Spike but the last weeks, and especially tonight, had shown him a possibility that he'd not previously considered seriously.

Everything was backwards and upside-down and he just didn't know what to think anymore.  

He'd told Spike that he wasn't confused and he wasn't. At least not about what was normal human sexuality and what wasn't. He'd always seemed to be able to appreciate beautiful people, whether they were male or female, but that's as far as it went; a recognition that someone was attractive. As he'd gotten older and his dick began to rule his brain 95% of the time, his desires had been almost exclusively female with the occasional male sneaking in to torment him.

There had been a time when he'd been horrified that anyone could think he was even the slightest bit gay and terrified that the occasional comment that slipped out about men would be written off as Xander just trying to be one of the girls with his two really good girl friends. But he'd been insecure and practically a virgin then. A few years, a little surfing for information on the Internet, and lots of non-traditional sex and discussions with Anya went a long way in eliminating any confusion he may have had about the occasional thoughts about having sex with a man.

Unfortunately, accepting it was possible that, someday, he might meet a man he wanted to have sex with brought to light a different problem; he seemed to have a thing for the exotic. 'Exotic' in Xander's world was, of course, non-humans of the demon variety. Not that he wanted to hop in the sack with the first big, scaly demon that dripped slime that passed his way or anything but more than once in the last few months the only way he could perform with Anya was to imagine she wasn't human while he pounded into her.

And some of the demons they encountered were just damn hot! Just three weeks ago they'd been out hunting down whatever had been killing all the birds in the park when they'd run across two naked, sleek, humanoid but bluish-skinned, demons with some kind of feathery material running down their spines and along the undersides of their forearms that Xander just knew would feel wonderful when it caressed his skin. His quick study of the two showed that one was male and one female and definitely sexually compatible with humans. After Giles said they weren't dangerous and Buffy let them move on, Xander had pulled Anya into the bushes and had her ride him hard and fast. Not that she complained about the spontaneous sex, but Xander felt bad afterward because it hadn't been her he was seeing on the inside of his eyelids as he came.

So now he had another glitch in his pursuit of happiness. Anya was becoming too normal, too ordinary, and too human. Not her looks; no one could say she wasn't beautiful, but her attitudes and conversation were now not much different than any other woman's and it just didn't do anything for him anymore. Which, he knew, was sort of hypocritical since he was the one that was always telling her she couldn't hang on to her demon past forever.

After the incident with the blue demons, he'd found himself paging through Giles' books looking for demons that weren't too dangerous but were also attractive. There weren't many, but there were some. There were also some footnotes in one book mentioning how often this or that demon ended up having offspring with humans compared to how often the humans had offspring from the demon, so not everyone in the history of the world thought it was bad to sleep with demons.

Once again, he was starting to admit some truths to himself. That, maybe, it would be okay to try a little out-of–species nookie, preferably out of town so Anya would never find out and at a place where no one would get hurt, especially him. Vampires had never been a possibility that Xander would consider, male or female didn't matter because vampires, while usually sexy as hell, were way too dangerous.

Then Spike had shown up in his basement wanting a buddy and Xander hadn't been the same since. But until tonight, he hadn't thought Spike would ever think of him as anything more than a sort-of friend to entertain him until someone better came along and he certainly never considered that Spike might actually find him desirable.

Xander glanced at the clock and sighed again; he'd spent so long trying to tame his whirling thoughts that it was only an hour till sunrise. Stripping off his clothes, he fell heavily onto the couch bed, set the alarm and closed his eyes. There was plenty of time tomorrow to wonder what he was going to do about Spike.

Spike paced the length of his crypt for the four millionth time, glaring at the door every time he turned in that direction. He didn't know exactly what time it was but from the position of the stray sunbeams that came through the high window, he guessed it was mid-morning.

"And why isn't he here yet?"

The dust bunnies and spiders that shared their home with the vampire didn't answer.

It wasn't that he was worried about Xander, he told himself, it was that he needed to know if he'd have to make another trip to the warehouse that evening. It was a planning issue, that was all. He wasn't feeling at all possessive or preoccupied with a human that he wouldn't have bothered to bite three years ago.

What had started as a lark out of boredom was fast becoming an obsession as more and more of the real Xander, and his potential, revealed itself. No longer a boy but not yet a man and Spike didn't know if he was going to be able to resist the temptation to 'assist' in the transition.

"Bloody buggery hell!"

He made another pass across the crypt, turning his thoughts away from the moral dilemma that a real vampire shouldn't be having in the first place, and checked the angle of the sun again. Even if Xander hadn't gone to the Watcher until the sun had been up for an hour, they still should be finished by now. It didn't take that long to burn down a warehouse and stake any vamps that made a break for it.

Unless he wanted to spend the next two hours winding his way through the sewer tunnels in order to get to Rupert's, he'd just have to wait until one of them decided to drop by and let him know it was done or wait until the sun set.

After throwing himself into his chair, he leaned forward and turned on the crappy television he'd liberated from the back room of a pawnshop with sewer access. Turning the sound down low, he settled back and let the murmuring voices soothe him into a light sleep.

Giles wiped sweat from his forehead, stepping further into the shadow of a stack of pallets, and looked on in satisfaction as the mornings work continued to smolder as men in yellow slickers sprayed water on the remains of the warehouse. It hadn't been an easy task to manage setting enough fires that the majority of the vampires would perish quickly yet not so many that the fire would spread to neighboring buildings and rage out of control before the fire department could arrive.

He knew that a few of the vampires had managed to escape into other buildings but not enough to pose any further collective threat. They would have to patrol diligently until Buffy returned day after tomorrow but Giles felt sure that he and Xander could handle it until then. Of course, there was also Spike.

When Xander had pounded on his door shortly after sunrise and began babbling about how he'd spent the night, Giles had first believed it was some sort of joke. Once the young man had been fed some breakfast and made to speak calmly and slowly, Giles realized that there were pieces missing from the chain of events but they didn't seem to change the fact that it was no joke and something had to be done soon.

He really couldn't credit Spike making a concerted effort to save the town and its inhabitants from slaughter and subjugation by an overly ambitious Master vampire, but Xander had insisted that Spike had done exactly that and had even been the one to insist that Xander enlist his aid in finishing off what Spike had begun the night before. Giles felt that there was definitely something 'rotten in Denmark', so to speak, but he knew he'd have to wait until later to ponder Spike's motives.

Xander slipped up next to him and smiled tiredly. "Got another one trying to sneak out of the building over there and into the water." He pointed toward one of the small shipping offices that sat close to the edge of the water. "He was so surprised to see me that he just stood there while I staked him."

"Hmm, yes." Giles studied the grubby man next to him and was slightly surprised to see that, although clearly near exhaustion, his eyes were sparkling with pleasure and satisfaction and that he would gladly continue to pursue stray vampires until he dropped. Where was the wise-cracking boy who only went into battle reluctantly and most often ended up with at least one injury before it was over? Gone, apparently, and replaced by this near man who had been, it turns out, spending considerable time with a very bad influence mostly unbeknownst to his friends.

Bending down, he wearily lifted the duffel bag containing the remains of their supplies and slung it over his shoulder. "I believe this would be a good time to make our exit from the area. The fire is almost out and they will soon be searching for clues as to the cause and it wouldn't do to be found hanging about."

"Sure thing, G-man. I seriously need a shower and about twenty more hours of sleep."

They carefully made their way back to the car which was parked several blocks away and Giles stowed the bag in the trunk of his latest test car. He had already decided this tiny torture chamber on wheels would not make the final list of possibilities. "Shall I return you to your home or would you like to be dropped elsewhere?"

Xander yawned and remembered at the last minute not to rub his eyes with his gasoline splashed hands. "Home, I guess. I need to go tell Spike what happened but I'd probably make him puke smelling like this." He sniffed his shirt and grimaced at the combination of sweat, gasoline and smoke. "I think it may make me puke in a minute."

"Ah, yes, about that…" Giles began as he came around the car to unlock doors. "Are you sure it's wise to be associating with Spike any more than is strictly necessary?"

Xander paused in the act of opening his door and frowned. "No, probably not."

"But you will continue to do so anyway?"

Xander shrugged and folded himself into the Giles-rental-car-of-the-week, rolling the window down as soon as he was seated. When Giles finished strapping himself in behind the wheel, Xander explained. "He's a friend, sort of, and that's been kinda nice. In case you haven't noticed, I'm kind of surrounded by the estrogen brigade and, well, you. Not that you're not a guy or… What I mean is, you have your own life and totally different interests. I wouldn't say no if you wanted to hang out sometime but since I don't see that happening… "

"I do understand what you're saying, Xander, but I still don't think that Spike is the best choice to satisfy your need for male companionship." Giles couldn't miss the blush that stained the younger man's cheeks at his words. "Please tell me you haven't… That you're not… "

"Chill Giles." Xander forced himself to meet the older man's eyes. "Some… things… have happened but not what you're thinking. Not yet anyway. I'm not even sure that it'll ever go farther, but I'm not ruling it out either. It's what you'd call a still developing situation that I'm thinking through very carefully. Okay?"

Giles continue to stare into Xander's eyes, trying to read the veracity of his words. In their brown depths he saw his earlier suspicion confirmed; at some point in the last year or so, Xander had very much changed from the boy Giles thought he knew and was still in the process of discovering who he truly was. He nodded his head, satisfied that the young man was, indeed, aware of the dangers inherent in the current situation. "Very well, Xander. I will not bring it up again if you do not wish to talk about it. However, if at any time you feel the need to discuss it with someone, please remember that I am not unfamiliar with wanting things and people that are not the best for me. Do you understand?"

Xander's eyes widening briefly and he nodded quickly. "Suddenly understanding much more than I wanted, but thanks, I'll keep that in mind."

Spike was roused from his snooze by a hesitant knock on his crypt door. Since no one he knew would ever knock, he turned off the television and cautiously approached the portal and stood slightly to the side. "What?"

"Spike? It's me, can I come in?"

Xander. Finally.

He quickly crossed the crypt and retook his seat in the ratty chair, lighting a cigarette and trying to affect an air of unconcern. "It's open, come in if you're gonna."

The door creaked open and Xander stepped in and closed the door behind him quickly. "You're awake? I wasn't sure you would be so I didn't knock too loud so I wouldn't wake you up if you were. But you are so I guess it was okay to come over after all. I thought…"

"Xander! Take a breath and tell me what happened." The boy was babbling and twitching like he was touching a live wire. Did that mean that it hadn't gone well? He looked the human over from head to toe but didn't see any obvious injuries so that wasn't it. Maybe the vamps had already cleared out before he'd gotten there?

"Oh, it went fine. Giles has some scary pyromaniac skills that came in handy and most of the vamps went poof real quick. A few got away but I think we got most of them."

Xander continued to fidget and didn't seem to be able to look at Spike directly for more than a second or two. What the hell was wrong with him?

"Well, took care of that then. Now you won't have to play Pet again tonight, unless you wanted to, that is." Spike raised an eyebrow when that caused Xander to jerk his head around and finally meet his eyes.

"What? No. I mean, not right now, thanks. No, that’s not what I mean either." Xander growled under his breath and came closer to where Spike was sitting. "I've been thinking. A lot. And well, I'm not really sure what you have in mind with all these innuendoes and the touching and stuff. I know most of it was just for show last night but… are you just playing with my head or flirting or you're just horny or what?"

So that was the problem. "It's whatever you want it to be, Xander. You have the power here. I can't force you to do anything, you know that." That was true physically, but if he wanted, he could make the boy's head spin so fast he wouldn't even realize what he was doing let alone why. Last night had shown him that Xander wasn't immune to his influence but Spike wasn't entirely convinced that that would be the best way to get what he wanted.

"You're saying it's up to me whether we pretend like certain things didn't happen last night and go on just being kinda friends or not?" Xander sounded skeptical and moved a few feet closer. "If I say I just want to go hunting with you sometimes, you won't hold it against me?"

Spike waggled his eyebrows and snickered, "I'd love to hold it against you, pet, I thought I'd made that pretty clear."

Taking the final steps to close the distance between them, Xander swatted the vampire on the shoulder before flopping down on the floor in front of the chair. "I'm trying to be serious here and, by the way, you didn't make that clear. How am I supposed to know what was acting and what was real? Not like I've got your experience at reading people or even very much experience in the whole vampire-human communication thing. I almost never know what you're thinking except when you want me to."

"Fine. Here it is, as simply as I can make it." Spike leaned forward so that Xander could see his face clearly in the gloom. "None of it was acting for me. Somewhere between deciding to go bug you because I was bored and now, I realized that you really are my friend and I enjoy spending time with you. Now, that's not an easy thing for me to admit, so you're only going to hear it that once, got it?"

Xander nodded, eyes twinkling with barely suppressed humor. "And the rest?"

"Right, the rest. Simple really; I'd like to shag you, thoroughly and often, until you scream for mercy but if that's not in the cards, I'd still like it if we could be mates. That clear enough?" He sat back, slightly annoyed with himself. That was not what he'd intended to say. William the Bloody did not say things like that to anyone and especially not a human. He really had gotten soft.

"Ah, okay, well…" Xander cleared his throat and tried again. "Anya will be back soon and I can talk to her then." He frowned. "Or not. I mean I don't think it will be a big surprise to her or anything but still, she's going to be hurt." He got up and started pacing, trying to decide the best way to go about telling his girlfriend the news without losing a limb.

"What the bloody hell are you going on about?"

"I told you, it would be wrong to cheat on Anya and I won't do it. So, shagging with screams is going to have to wait until the girls get back." Xander smiled a little shyly and reseated himself on the floor next to Spike's chair. Only this time, he scooted close enough that he could lay his chin on the vampire's thigh and look up at him. "That doesn't mean we can't, you know, do other things until then."

"Other things?" Spike carded his hand through Xander's hair and tugged lightly. "What'd you have in mind then?"

The side of Xander's mouth quirked up and he shrugged his shoulders. "Well, not having been with a guy or a vampire before, I don't know. I'm sure there's stuff you could show me that isn't technically sex, isn't there?"

Leaning down close, Spike licked Xander's ear and purred, "Oh, there is, my pet, there is."

The End

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