The Beast in Me

Pirate Purple

Part Five

Dawn arrived in Cleveland and was a little surprised when no one met her at the airport. Whatever, she was a resourceful girl, and she had the address. Slinging her small bag over her shoulder and hailing a taxi, she set off to see her boys. Xander and Spike. Spike. It still seemed like a dream that he was alive.

She knocked on the wooden door, her bag dangling from her arm to sit squat by her feet. There was no sign of life. She knocked again, trying the handle and finding it open. Maybe they had been late going to pick her up, and left the door open in case they missed her. She shut the door behind her and tossed her bag on the couch, which had rumpled blankets on it. They must have overslept.

She used the bathroom, noticing a few cigarettes that looked as if they had been left to burn down to the filter in an ashtray on the back of the toilet. Unlike Spike to let that much precious tobacco go to waste. She grinned at the thought.

Leaving the bathroom, she wandered into the kitchen, and puttered around there for awhile, cleaning. It looked like the boys needed a maid service. Finally, unable to contain her curiosity, she peeked in the bedroom. There was a cigarette burning in the ashtray by the bed. She stubbed it out, confused, nearly screaming when what she had assumed to be a pile of laundry reached out toward her with a weak, "No, please."

"Fuck! Xander!" Dawn jumped. "Is this your twisted idea of a surprise party? Where's Spike?"

"Gone." Xander's eyes were bloodshot and swollen.

"What do you mean, gone?" Dawn asked, a tinge of hysteria coloring her voice. She took a deep breath. Spike wasn't dead again. She would know. Xander would have called her.

Xander merely held out a slip of paper in response. It had been folded and refolded, and she sat next to Xander on the bed and smoothed it over her knee to read it. There were a number of places where the pen ran, and she realized that Xander had cried over this paper many times. But the note held no clue as to why the vampire had left.

"Xander, why did Spike leave?" Dawn held up a finger as she ran to the living room to get her bag, and came back. "Tell me what happened?" She started laying out ingredients for a spell.

Xander closed his eyes and sobbed, but no tears came out. He hadn't left the bed, except for short trips to the bathroom, in five days. He had eaten nothing and drunk nothing, determined to drive the demon out with hunger. The demon would leave, and then he would be human enough for Spike. Spike would know and come back to him.

Spike would know.

Dawn's face creased with worry when she heard the dry, rasping sobs that degenerated into a hacking cough. She pulled a bottle of water from her bag and held it to Xander's lips, surprised when he wrenched his head away with a desperate cry of, "No!"

"It's just water Xander. You look like you need some fluids. And some food. And definitely a bath," she said, wrinkling her nose.

Xander just curled into a ball, facing away from her on the bed. He murmured something, and Dawn had to hold her breath to hear him chant, "Nononononononono..." breathlessly.

What the hell had happened? Summoning a resolve face she had learned from Willow, and the voice-of-steel that was a combination of Buffy and her mother, she took Xander's face in her hands and forced him to look at her. "Xander Harris! Sit up now!" A shocked look crossed Xander's face, and he sat up, looking at her like this was the first time he had seen her. Satisfied that she had his attention, Dawn continued. "I don't know what the hell happened, but I intend to find out, if I have to get a shovel and beat it out of both of you. Drink this water, and I'm going to go get you some more, and something to eat, and you will eat it. Are we clear?"

Eyes wide, Xander dutifully took the water and nodded.

When he was ensconced against the headboard with a bowl of canned ravioli on a tray in front on him, and a gallon of water on the nightstand beside him. Dawn sat cross-legged on the floor, spreading a map out in front of her and arranging some crystals around the edge. She put a cigarette on the other side of the map, concentrating on it a moment, inhaling the smell of smoke, leather, whiskey, and dark spice that was Spike's scent. Then she closed her eyes and blew some powder over the map. One spot glowed green on the map when she opened her eyes. "Got him," Dawn said with satisfaction. He hadn't even left the city.

"You eat all of that, and drink all of the water you can hold. And because I know you'll think of something, I forbid you to do anything stupid and noble. Stay right there. I'm bringing Spike back."


Dawn followed her map to an extremely shady side of town. The place she wanted had stairs going down to a black metal door with no knob. No light above the door, which was shadowed and dark. Dawn took a deep breath and willed herself not to be nervous.

When she knocked a small sliding door opened and a pair of red eyes looked out. "I'm the vampire slayer named Buffy's sister. I'm sure you've heard of her." She hefted the small axe in her hand, leaning it casually back on one shoulder. "I'm here for one vamp. Let me have him, and you'll be left alone. If I don't return with the vamp in an hour, there'll be an army of slayers here to kill every one of you and burn this place to the ground."

The little door closed, and Dawn held her breath and waited. There was a commotion behind the door and Dawn backed up two stairs, axe ready in her grip. The door opened just wide enough to eject one skinny, swearing vampire, and then it slammed shut, and Dawn heard the sounds of several locks clicking.

"Bloody hell! There is no way I drank a whole grand worth of whiskey!" He pounded on the door. "I'm not even properly pissed! This is no way to conduct a business!" was Spike's parting shout to the door. Kicking it hard enough to make a dent in the metal, Spike spun drunkenly away from the door. "Sodding wankers can't let a vampire drink his whiskey in peace," he mumbled.

Dawn cleared her throat. "I think that might be my fault. I threatened them with Buffy." She had to hide a grin at the look on Spike's face.

"Bit? What the bloody fucking hell are you doing here?! You could have been killed, or worse!" Spike was suddenly much more sober.

"Yes, but I wasn't, and now I have what I need." Dawn fixed Spike with her resolve face.

"Dawn you don't -"

"I do. I need your help to save Xander."

"Save Xander from what? Where is he? Is he hurt?" Spike felt a cold burst of fear. He had left Xander unprotected.

"He's been lying in a pile of your dirty laundry and burning those horrible cigarettes you smoke. And tried to refuse food and water. And cried over this -" she held up the folded note, "about a gazillion times. You are going to walk back to the apartment with me, and on the way you're going to tell me what happened."

"I can't go back there, Bit. It's - it's complicated. Anyway, I'm the last thing he needs."

"I wasn't asking, Spike. You're coming and you're going to tell me. Willow can be here in a few hours, and I'm sure she'll bring an extra shovel for me. And if I could find you, do you really think you can hide from her?"

Spike had the grace to look ashamed. "It's an adult matter, Dawn. Not for your ears. `M just trying to do what's best for the boy."

"Don't think using my actual name is gonna get anything past me, William." Spike flinched. Dawn went on, more gently, "Xander and I are both adults now. You need to let him decide what's best for him. And I'm trying to help, but I can't do that if you don't tell me what's going on."

"Fine. I'll tell you, but then you have to leave me be. It's hard enough without the rest of the gang trooping in to make it worse." Spike lit a cigarette, blowing smoke at the sky.

"I won't repeat what you tell me, but I don't promise not to harass you about it myself." Dawn crossed her arms and leaned against the side of the stairwell.

"Something happened to Xander in Africa. S'why he had to leave. Then something happened here, reminded him of that. Made him feel guilty. Then we, ah, fought. I left."

"Could you vague that up a little for me? That doesn't tell me anything, Spike."

"Kinda caught between a rock and a hard place here, Bit. The first part isn't my story to tell, and Xander might stake me. The second part you might stake me for." He sighed. "Bloody hell."

"I'm not going to stake you, Spike. Even if you went back to the wholesale slaughter of humans I'd be more likely to try and find a non-lethal way of stopping you. You're practically my brother." Dawn looked away, unable to meet Spike's eyes.

"Bit -" Spike's voice had tears in it he wouldn't shed. "Okay. Xander's possessed by a hyena spirit. He had to kill a slayer in Africa, also possessed, in self-defense. Then he comes here, and we're hunting what we think is a demon that's been kidnapping kids. We, ah... got kind of involved. Then we find the guy, not a demon, a human. He knocks me down and Xander panics and kills him too. Then we, uh fought, and I kinda did something I shouldn't've, let him do things. I - It was really not good, for either of us. So I left before I could make it any worse."

Dawn took this in silently. Spike was a bit worried about the lack of interruptions, and the continued silence. He lifted the cigarette to his mouth with a shaking hand. He was so dust.

Dawn didn't look up. "Do you love him?" She asked quietly.

Spike looked up sharply at the question, and then away again. "I don't know, Bit. It's complicated."

She looked up at that, taking his chin in her hand and turning his face back towards her. "No, Spike, it isn't. I have a pretty clear idea of how Xander feels about you. I need you to stop bullshitting me so I can come up with a way to help both of you."

"I'm no good for him, Bit. I -"

"That's not what I asked."

Spike looked away again. "Yeah. I do."

Dawn smiled at him. "Let's go, then." She grabbed his hand and started to walk.

Spike let himself be pulled.

Part Six

Xander ate three ravioli before he felt sick. He put the tray on the floor, then lit a cigarette and left it burning in the ashtray, before lying back down. He wondered if Dawn was actually going to bring Spike back. Probably not. Spike would tell her what he had done, and she wouldn't come back.

He would be alone. He had lost Betine and Ofuako, he had driven Spike away, and now he would lose Dawn. Probably Faith too. Wait.

Faith. Faith might understand. She would turn him in to the police, but that was exactly what he deserved. Xander reached for the phone.

"Faith?" Xander croaked.

"Xander? What's wrong? Where are you?" Faith was really worried.

"I need to talk to you. Can you come? Alone. I need to talk to you p-privately." Xander shuddered. He felt so cold.

"I'm on my way. It's the apartment on the third floor of that old Victorian, right?" She didn't wait for an answer. "You hang in there until I get there, you understand?"

Xander hung up. He shivered and pulled a few of Spike's shirts up over his shoulder, breathing in the scent that was Spike, trying to memorize it.


Faith just barely remembered to try the door before she kicked it in. It was open. The house reeked of cigarette smoke. She opened a window. "Xander? Where are you?"

"Here." Xander stood in the doorway of the bedroom.

"You look like shit. What happened? Is it Spike? Where is he?" Faith growled the last question, feeling for the stake in her back pocket.

"Put that away, Faith. Spike's not here, and he has nothing to do with this." Xander shuffled to the couch and sat down heavily. "I need you to take me to the police. I've killed someone." He put his head in his hands, not daring to look at her.

Faith squatted, putting her hands on Xander's knees. "Xander, we kill demons all the time -"

"Not a demon, Faith. A human. The kidnapper wasn't a demon, he was a human trying to perform some sort of spell, and I killed him."

"Oh. Xander, I'm so sorry -"

"Don't be. I deserve this."

"No, Xander. You don't." Dawn's voice from the doorway caused them both to look up.

"Dawnie, you don't understand. I've done things. More than just that -"

Faith's "What?" was overridden by Dawn's "I know."

"You don't know, Dawn. In Africa I -"

"Killed a slayer who tore apart a seven year old boy and tried to kill you. I know."

"I never told anyone. How did you find out?" Xander paled.

Spike stepped into the room. "You told me, Xander. I'm sorry, but I had to tell her."

"Spike," Xander breathed, afraid to say it out loud. Faith squeezed Xander's knees and stood, walking to the other side of the room, as Spike walked forward and stood in front of him.

"Bit says you need me. I'm here."

Tears pricked Xander's eyes. "I have to go. The police have to know about me. I have to be locked up."

Faith came back and sat on the couch. "Xander, I don't think you have to go to jail. I had to go because I would have done it again, on purpose. When Willow killed Warren, you didn't send her to jail, did you?" She put her hand on Xander's arm.

"No..." Xander said uncertainly. He was different. "Willow didn't have a demon inside of her."

Faith's eyebrow went up, but she said nothing, looking instead to Spike.

Dawn was looking at him, too. Bloody hell.

"Xan..." Spike trailed off as those bottomless brown eyes focused on him. Bloodshot, red rimmed, and swollen, but still the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen. "Maybe, like Willow, you just need help to handle the power you have now." Spike swallowed, hoping he hadn't said the wrong thing. He looked at Dawn. She was smiling encouragingly. He relaxed an inch or so.

"There's no coven of hyena-possessed people for me to go to and be trained." Spike wanted to send him away. He looked down as tears filled his eyes again. "I'll go though. Somewhere. Back to Giles." His voice broke on that last word, and several tears rolled down his cheeks and over his nose.

"Oh." Xander wanted to leave. Of course. He wanted to be with humans again. "I'll, uh, go get the phone, and call him, then." Spike was about to turn away when Dawn thwacked him on the head.

She looked at Faith. "Are all boys this stupid? Maybe I should date girls." Faith snorted. Dawn pulled Xander up so he and Spike were standing face to face. Their eyes locked, but they said nothing. Dawn sighed. "Spike, don't you have something you want to tell Xander? Maybe the two of you should go into the bedroom and talk." When they didn't move, she shoved them towards the door.

When they finally closed the door, Dawn went to the kitchen and got the whiskey and two glasses. She sat next to Faith. "This might take awhile."

Faith looked at the clock. 11:41. "It's early yet." She sipped the whiskey Dawn poured her.


Spike was shocked by the state of the bedroom. Xander had dredged up every piece of clothing he hadn't taken with him and made a nest on the bed. Spike could see the indentation where his body had been. Idly, he wondered if it was still warm. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Xander shift his weight from foot to foot. He had no idea what Dawn expected him to do. Xander was a mess and he had obviously caused it. They should be taking Xander far away from him. The thought caused his chest to tighten. He had to say something.

"Xan... I'm sorry." It was all he could think of.

There was an awkward silence as Xander just stared at him. "You're sorry?" Xander was incredulous. "What on Earth do you have to be sorry about?"

"Took you out hunting. Treated you like a demon. Shouldn't've. Should've taken him down m'self." Spike looked up at Xander, silently pleading with him to understand. "It'd been so long since I'd had a hunting partner. I was lonely, and there you were."

"I thought you'd left because you couldn't stand what I had done." Xander's voice broke on the last word, and he swallowed back tears for several moments. "I thought I wasn't human enough for you. That you hated what I'd become."

Their gaze broke, the moment too intense. Spike looked at Xander's bare feet, repressing an urge to kneel and cradle them in his hands. To touch any part of Xander, really. "Thought you hated that I brought out the demon in you. Figured you'd blame me for what had happened."

"No. Nearly killed me that you left." Xander stared out the window, watching a car drive slowly down the street.

"Should I leave, now?" Spike was still uncertain of what Xander wanted.

"If you want." Xander managed to choke out, steeling himself for the sound of the door.

Spike's hand twitched as he stilled the urge to reach out to Xander. If he left now, he'd lose Xander. "Bit says I'm supposed to let you decide what's good for you. I don't want to hurt you. I..." love you. Spike let the sentence trail off.

"What if I do it again? Kill another human being. What if I'm totally out of control now?" Xander looked at his hands.

"You don't look out of control to me, pet. The slayer and I will help you. We'll call Red. Giles won't let her do anything stupid." Spike stepped a little closer to Xander, wanting to comfort, but not knowing how.

"Does that mean you're staying?" Xander asked quietly.

"Not if you want me to leave." Spike's stomach clenched. "I know you wanted to go slow, and I know what I did was wrong. I'll understand if you don't want me around anymore." He wouldn't like it, but he'd do what was right for Xander.

Xander was staring again. "Did you miss the part where I begged you to do it? I didn't really give you a choice." Xander took Spike's hands in his, rubbing his thumbs over the backs.

" `M a demon, pet. Comfort comes in limited forms for us. But I should've done something else."

"Did you miss the part where I'm part demon, too, now? You gave me what I needed. Going slow was the worst idea I ever had, anyway." Xander shot him a self-deprecating smile.

"You need time to be certain of your feelings for me. I understand that, Xander." Bloody hell, he was turning into sodding William. Spike's chest felt hollow. He shouldn't hope that Xander would love him someday.

"No, actually I don't." Xander wouldn't meet Spike's eye.

"How's that, again?" This was where Xander would tell him he could never be more than friends. Maybe not even that.

"It took me awhile to figure it out. I would have interlocking parts thoughts, about you, and I tried to tell myself it's just because I've only had a few one-night stands since Sunnydale. And then every time you would smile, my heart would skip six or seven beats. I tried to tell myself it was because I hadn't really had a close guy friend since Jesse." Xander turned away from Spike and went to stand by the window.

"It wasn't until he knocked you on the ground, and I saw you there, unconscious, that I knew." Xander's hands were shaking. "I was in love with you. I was terrified that you'd been hurt. I killed him because he hurt you, Spike. Not because I thought he was a demon. Not because of what he did to those kids. You."

" love with me?" Spike parroted, all higher brain function gone. He felt like he was floating.

Xander hung his head, still facing away. "Yeah. You can laugh, it's okay."

Spike did laugh then, taking three broad steps to Xander and spinning him around. He kissed Xander thoroughly through a grin he wasn't able to fight. "Bloody hell, Xander. I never thought you'd say that to me."

Xander's eyes were wide. He had expected derision. Instead Spike was happy and babbling a mile a minute. "I should have said something before things went bad, I know. But I really didn't know until Dawn made me think about it. And then I knew, and I came back. I only left because I thought I was hurting you. Can I come back? Is that okay?"

"Spike, it's kinda your apartment." Xander's smile was uncertain.

"It can be our apartment if you want. I'll have the landlady come up in the morning. Is that moving too fast?" Spike had to physically bite his tongue to keep from pleading.

Xander pressed his forehead against Spike's chest, afraid to look up. "Tell me?"

Spike tilted his chin up until they were looking each other in the eye. "Love you, Xan."

Xander's arms wound around Spike's waist, and he rested his head on a leather-covered shoulder. " `Kay. We both stay."

Spike pressed a kiss to Xander's temple. "We both stay."


Faith and Spike spent the next hour or so drawing up a training schedule for Xander. They would be training him in how to restrain and disable, as well as kill. He would have an option the next time he had to fight a human. Dawn and Xander put a word in now and then, but for the most part just watched the other two argue.

The arguing stopped when Xander's stomach made a loud growling sound. Everyone looked at him. "There's a Chinese place that delivers that's open `til two. I'll call." Spike grabbed the phone and wandered off to the kitchen.

Faith excused herself before the food came. "I gotta get back before Robin freaks. Xan, I expect a call this afternoon."

"Yes, ma'am. Soon as I wake up." Xander was lying on the couch.

Food was eaten quickly, as Dawn had begun to nod off in the chair. Spike cleaned up the various leftovers while Xander made up the couch for Dawn. He gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Night, Dawnie. Thank you, for everything."

"Anytime, Xander." Dawn yawned. "You know you've always been my hero."

"Yeah? It was you who rescued me, today." Xander smoothed the hair back from her forehead. Dawn made a pleased humming sound, and closed her eyes, so Xander continued to stroke her hair until Spike came out of the kitchen. Xander held out a hand and let himself be pulled up and guided to the bedroom. While Spike was hanging up his duster in the closet, Xander stripped to his boxers. Spike turned around, and groaned. "Maybe I should sleep on the floor, pet.'

"Is it the boxers?" Xander teased, "because I can always take those off." He pushed the waistband down a little.

Spike closed his eyes. If he couldn't see it, he wouldn't want it. "Slow, remember?" His eyes opened when Xander pressed his body against Spike's and wrapped his arms around the vampire's waist.

"Slow was a bad idea. Want you. Unless," Xander pulled back, "you'd rather not." He pulled away completely, eyes on the ground.

Spike put his hands on Xander's arms, fighting the urge to pull him close again. "Gods, Xander. Want you so much. But I don't want you to do anything you'd regret, and Bit's in the next room."

Xander ran over to the bedside table and rifled through the drawer for a few seconds. He held up a crystal on a chain triumphantly. Rubbing it until it glowed a soft amber color, Xander hung it from the bedpost. "Silencing spell. Willow gave it to me when I went to Africa. Privacy for Council business. Mostly so I could talk demons and slayers without scaring aid workers." Xander raised an eyebrow. "And you're supposed to let me decide what's good for me, remember?" He held out his hands. "Any other objections?"

Spike took his hands. "You sure, pet?" He kissed Xander's shoulder.

Xander shivered at the contact. "More certain every time you touch me."

"I'll just have to keep doing that, then, yeah?" He pulled Xander close, kissing his way up the tanned column of his neck.

"Please, yes!" Xander groaned, leaning his head to one side, and struggling to untuck Spike's shirt.

Spike put his hands over Xander's. "Shh... It's okay, Xander. Gonna take care of you. Calm down, yeah?"

Xander giggled. A manly giggle, really. "I've wanted this for so long, Spike. Calm is not something I think I'm capable of."

"Could tie you to the bed." Spike whispered in his ear. "Tease you until you have a reason to be frantic. Taste you everywhere," Spike ghosted a palm over the tented front of Xander's boxers, "leave this until last. Until your voice is hoarse from begging."

"Oh, god..." Xander's knees buckled, but Spike was there to hold him up. "Spike," he breathed, before the vampire took his mouth. They kissed until Xander's entire body felt like it was made of Jello.

Spike lifted Xander and laid him down on the bed. Xander whimpered when he withdrew, but watched with hungry eyes as the vampire unbuttoned and removed his overshirt and drew the t-shirt underneath over his head. Xander put a hand inside his boxers and began a slow stroke.

Spike groaned. "Take off the shorts, yeah? Let me see." He undid the first two buttons of his jeans and leaned back against the wall.

Xander planted his feet and lifted his hips, sliding the boxers down and kicking them to the side. Ghosting his palm over his arousal in a mirror of Spike's earlier action, he locked eyes with Spike. Gasping at the heat he saw on the vampires face, he wrapped his fist around his aching cock, and slowly began to thrust up into it. "Like this, Spike? This what you wanted to see? How much I want you? How hard I am just thinking about you?"

Spike cupped himself through his jeans. "Yes. Love to look at you." He was breathing, heavy, wet breaths that brought the taste of Xander's arousal to him a little stronger with each one.

"Let me see you? Show me how much you want me." Xander was mesmerized by the movement of Spike's hands as he unbuttoned the rest of his jeans and peeled them off, kicking them towards the closet.

Spike took himself in hand, using his thumb to gather the fluid at the tip, and bringing it to his mouth to taste, never looking away from Xander. "Bet you'd taste like chocolate and sunshine," he said, starting up a slow stroke. "Bet I could suck on you for hours and never get tired of the taste. Gonna taste you every day. Want you, Xan, so much."

"Have me." Xander's voice was hoarse.

Spike crawled up the bed, skimming his body over Xander's. They both moaned. There were hungry, biting kisses on lips, neck and shoulders, but Xander kind of lost track because Spike had wrapped his cool hand around both of them. Both too far gone for finesse, they both thrust into Spike's fist, the tight channel slowly becoming slick with their mixed juices.

Xander's hands roamed over Spike's body, touching every dip and bump on Spike's spine, tangling in his hair, and finally grasping his hips desperately, as orgasm washed over both of them. Spike fell to one side, but threw an arm over Xander's chest.

Xander slid a finger through the slick substance on his stomach and tasted it. "Mmmm." He offered some to Spike who fellated his finger obscenely, making his cock twitch. Xander moaned. Spike grabbed a tshirt from the pile that had ended up mostly on the floor and used it to clean them both off.

"Sleep now, pet. We can continue this when you've rested." Spike laid his head on Xander's broad chest.

"Promise?" Xander whispered.

"Promise." Spike twined his legs with Xander's. "Sleep now."

" `Kay." Xander yawned. He rubbed the crystal above his head until it stopped glowing.

When Dawn peeked in on them in the morning, they were still asleep in each other's arms.

Spike put the dishrag down and went to answer the knock on the door. "Xan, I thought you were going out with Faith -" he stopped when he saw who was at the door. "Wood. Did something happen to Xander and Faith?" His face was blank.

"No! No. I wanted... umm... Can I come in?"

Spike snorted. "Umm... No. Last I saw you, you were trying to kill me. Heard you roughed up Xander, too." Spike's fist clenched and released, clenched and released.

Robin sighed. "That's fair." He held up his hands to show he was unarmed. "I just uh, heard what you did for Xander. What you and Faith are doing for him."

"And?" Spike narrowed his eyes.

"I realized something." Robin's gaze fluttered about nervously. "I love Faith, you know? She has some things in her past... Well, maybe they're not on the same scale as your past - She hasn't lived as long. And don't get me wrong... atonement is something that happens for her every day." Wood looked Spike in the eye. "I just wanted to say, I get it now. What you did, in Sunnydale, for all of us. What you're still doing, now. I get it, and I've been an ass, and thank you." He looked at the ground again. "I can't forget what you did to my mother, and I don't expect you to forget what I tried to do to you." There was an awkward pause, and Robin cleared his throat and continued. "I know we're never going to be friends, but I'd like us to move past all that enough to work together."

Wood shifted as Spike's eyes bored into him. Finally, Spike put out his hand. "Okay," he said gruffly.

They shook, briefly. Wood turned on the landing and began to walk down the stairs. He stopped on the third step. "So... patrol tomorrow night? Theodosius' has a nest of Soonath demons."

"Yeah? They breeding?"

"Six family dogs missing in the neighborhood, so probably."

"Seven thirty, then?"

"Yes. Sounds good. I have a shotgun. Do you have a bag of rock salt?"

"Yeah. Landlady gave us a twenty-pound bag. Used some of it to kill some flesh-eating slugs north of town, and some on the stairs last freeze, but we've still got at least fifteen pounds."

"It's the only thing that'll kill the eggs. Probably won't need more than a pound or two, though."

"See you tomorrow night, then." Wood walked down the stairs and out the door.

Xander came home a few hours later. "Nest of Soonath demons in your old crypt. They're breeding," he called from the living room, shucking his boots next to the door.

"I know," Spike said from the doorway.

Xander pulled off his hoodie and t-shirt, unbuttoning the button on his jeans. "You know? Did you go out?"

"No." Spike looked pensive. "Had a visitor."

"Do we know anyone in town beside Faith and... Robin. He came here?"

"Yeah. Said he wanted to let the past be the past and move on. Patrolling with him tomorrow."

"Wow," was all Xander could say.

"Yeah. Not something I thought I'd see. He said atonement was something that happened for Faith every day." There was a look of pain on Spike's face, and Xander went to him, trying to smooth it away with gentle touches. "Am I atoning? Being here, with you... it doesn't feel like punishment."

"I don't think atonement and punishment are necessarily the same thing." Xander ducked his head so that Spike had to look at his face. "If you weren't you, if we didn't have the history we have, would you have been able to help me? Maybe I would have gone off the deep end like Faith did, if you weren't there." Xander straightened and pressed a kiss to the top of Spike's head. "Yeah, most of the you and me stuff is good. If we didn't have anything good in our lives, we'd be like Angel was, all brooding and boring. Besides, if we're going to save the world, there needs to be something to make it worth saving. Even heroes need incentive."

"Part of my atonement is helping you, that what you're saying?" Spike looked happier.

"Yup." Xander kissed Spike again. "Wanna help me with something right now?"

"What do you need help with?"

Xander put a cool hand on the heat and hardness under his zipper, and began to pull Spike toward the bedroom. "Think you can help me with this?"

Spike chuckled. "Yeah pet. That I can do."

The End

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