Reaping the Reward


Part Twenty-Two

Monday morning came way too soon for Xander. He woke to a sunny day that seemed to belie the hellish morning he anticipated spending at W&H watching William go through more testing. He understood that they needed the tests to determine what had happened to William, but he couldn’t help feeling as if they were treating William like a freaking guinea pig.

As if he knew Xander was thinking about him, William rolled into him and mumbled words Xander couldn’t make out before settling against him and relaxing back into sleep. Xander knew the alarm was going to go off soon, but he wished this peaceful moment with William would never end. They could stay here in bed together where it was warm, and where there were no tests waiting for William, no one to tear them apart, and no nightmares.

And no bathrooms, he thought, as William shifted and pressed against his bladder. Crap, he really didn’t want to move. He waited. No good, he was definitely gonna have to move. He gently maneuvered his way out from under William and turned the alarm off so it wouldn’t jar him awake - there was nothing worse than a grumpy William who, it turned out, was not a morning person - and then scurried to the bathroom.

When he returned, William had flopped over onto his back, one arm thrown above his head, his morning erection tenting the sheet. Xander grinned and shot a glance at the clock. So what if they were a couple minutes late? he thought. He carefully crawled onto the bed and pulled the covers back without waking William.

He took a moment to study the man he’d fallen in love with so easily. William was completely gorgeous, from the ends of his curly brown hair to the tips of his long, slender toes. He pondered William’s feet. He loved William’s feet, but he never really gave them the attention they deserved, since he was usually so distracted by the man’s other attributes - moist, velvet tongue, strong, yet tender hands, tight, firm ass, and beautiful, hard penis.

Hmm, he thought, once again distracted, the feet could probably wait for another time. After all, William’s penis was very beautiful right now, especially with that pearlescent drop of fluid at the tip. He reached out and gently touched the shaft. And it was very hard. He ran his finger up and down the silky length of it until William stirred in his sleep, and then dipped his head and followed the same path with his tongue.

William groaned, and Xander raised his eye to see heavily-lidded and darkened blue eyes regarding him with desire. “You gonna finish what you started?” William asked him, and then smiled The Smile. Xander’s brain went into overload and he froze, his tongue still pressed to the tip of William’s cock. Oh, God, how could he have forgotten deep blue eyes and The Smile when listing William’s attributes? The smile that could simultaneously turn him into mush and hard as a rock in an instant.

William’s smile widened into a knowing grin, and the tip of his tongue moved over teeth and lips in a sultry manner that made Xander’s breath catch, and any blood remaining in his head to move south. “Gah,” he said.

William sat up, dislodging Xander’s tongue, and grasped the back of his head, pulling him up for a hard, hot, hungry kiss. Xander moaned into his mouth and recovered enough to return the kiss until William pulled back, and the sound of harsh, ragged breaths filled the air.

He pushed Xander back until he was lying flat on the bed, and kissed his way down Xander’s chest to his now hard and weeping flesh, kissing the leaking tip, and then looking into Xander’s eye as he licked his lips clean of the clear fluid. Xander groaned.

William slid down the bed until his groin was even with Xander’s mouth, settled on his side, and tugged at Xander’s hips until he was also on his side, the two of them laying mouth-to-groin. Without waiting, William swallowed Xander’s cock and pressed his tongue into it as he sucked. Xander squealed - a manly squeal, to be sure - and then returned the favor.

Moments later, both men were lying in panting, trembling heaps of liquefied flesh as they recovered from the powerful orgasms that had just ripped through them. “What the fuck was that?” Xander croaked when he could speak.

The mattress dipped as William crawled down it to sprawl over Xander. “Bloody brilliant,” he gasped, and then let his head drop onto Xander’s chest with a ‘thud’.

They were fifteen minutes late for their appointment, but Xander thought it was well worth it as he and William walked through the automatic doors to W&H hand-in-hand. An over-eager and slightly worried Wesley met them at the elevator after the receptionist was told to send them directly to the Medical Wing.

“There you are,” he breathed in relief. “I thought perhaps you weren’t coming.”

“We’re here,” Xander replied, squeezing William’s hand tighter. They slid together and he wondered which one of their palms was sweating; he was willing to bet it was his. Since the nightmare scare the previous day, William had seemed calm and in control.

“Are you ready?” Wesley asked gently.

“Ready,” William replied firmly with an affirmative nod.

Wesley led them down the plushly carpeted hall to double doors that had “Medical Wing - Authorized Personnel Only” scrawled across them in large white block lettering, and that automatically swung open after Wesley ran a key card through the reader. As the doors hissed shut behind them, and then locked with a foreboding ‘click’, Xander’s heart plummeted to his feet and he felt ill. Wesley continued down the slightly-less-plushly-carpeted hall past closed doors until he reached one identified by a small wooden plaque that read “Vampire Studies - Authorized Personnel Only”.

“Wow, we’ve got our own lab?” Xander asked, sarcasm coloring his tone in a desperate bid to cover his nausea, because deep down he knew this was all necessary. Wesley swiped his card again, and the door opened to reveal a suite of rooms filled with all sorts of medical and scientific equipment that Xander didn’t recognize, much less know the use of, as well as exercise equipment that he did recognize, but still didn’t know how they intended to use it. He felt even more like he was leading the innocent rat straight to the mad scientist. Not that William was a rat, he quickly corrected himself. More like a cute little mouse, with that tiny pink, twitchy nose and those whiskers...

“Yes,” Wesley answered him evenly, interrupting his wandering thoughts, his tone neither apologetic nor defensive. “It’s more private this way, rather than using the usual facilities. And easier to restrict the flow of information.” He waved the two of them into the main room ahead of him, and Xander uneasily entered the warren of rooms only because William had already gone in, and he refused to let go of the other man’s hand.

William spent three hours and twenty minutes submitting to various strength, speed, agility, and endurance tests, though it seemed like much longer to Xander who was forced to watch his lover suffer through them. He wondered if his own blood pressure was elevated by the time William was finished and they were allowed to leave.

As soon as they arrived, William was ripped out of his grasp and surrounded by men and women wearing white lab coats. All right, he amended, there were only three, but they scurried about in barely-restrained excitement like so many more than that. William was sent to a small dressing room where he changed into a pair of green scrubs as directed.

“I recognize her,” Xander said to Wesley while they waited for William to return, with a nod towards the only woman in the room, the same woman who had drawn William’s blood during their visit to Wesley’s office the week before, “but who are they?”

“Oh, sorry,” Wesley apologized. “Yes, Nurse Jamison will insert the IV and draw blood, and hook William up to the heart and blood pressure monitors. These other two men, Doctors Kingston and Phillips, will oversee the testing.”

Xander nodded at everyone, but the only one who looked into his eye and returned his guarded greeting was Nurse Jamison.

When he returned, William was seated on an exam table. Nurse Jamison attached small discs to his chest so they could keep track of his heart rate during the testing, and wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his biceps. Wesley informed them that both would be taken automatically and the results sent to the monitor.

She then rolled a tray over to where William was sitting; it contained several syringes, alcohol wipes, cotton pads, a roll of tape, and an IV needle. “We need to insert an IV,” Wesley said calmly.

The nurse swiped an alcohol wipe over the inside of William’s elbow and William, who had handled everything so well until that moment, looked up at Xander with fear in his eyes. Oh, God, Xander thought. William was afraid of needles! How could he not know that?

He pushed his way past the two doctors so he could get to William, and took his free hand. Cupping his face, he turned it towards him and placed a gentle kiss on his lips while the nurse gently inserted the needle into William’s arm. William’s lips tightened, and Xander whispered, “I’ve got you.”

William nodded, and tried to smile. They both turned to watch as she injected one of the syringes into the IV. “What is that?” Xander asked Wesley anxiously.

“The isotope that will induce the stress on William’s heart to mimic physical exertion when he gets on the treadmill. He will only be on the treadmill for about fifteen minutes for the first test,” Wesley continued, “but his heart will react as if it had been much longer. That,” he said, indicating the second injection with a tilt of his head, “is merely a saline flush that will push the isotope through the IV.”

The doctors then put William on the treadmill to test for cardiopulmonary endurance. The three of them talked amongst themselves as they alternately watched William and checked the computer screen, all the while making notations on clipboards they each carried with them like another appendage.

Once that particular test had been completed and the results logged, they started a series of tests that would assay William’s physical endurance. He remained on the treadmill while the doctors changed the elevation and speed of the walking surface, all the while jotting their notes. Xander sat stiffly on a plastic chair while Wesley hovered over the lab coats, as Xander had begun to think of them.

William was allowed a small break and a drink of water before he was placed on a stationary bicycle, and then given a jump rope followed by a stint on a balance beam and other gymnastic-type equipment Xander didn’t know the name or purpose of.

After another short break, they moved on to the next test in which he was required to push on a lever so they could measure the amount of force he exerted. Xander was tired after watching him complete the first five pushes, but William did 25 more with that arm, and then 30 more with the other before they allowed him to rest again.

Xander lost count of the number of tests they made William perform as the doctors tried to measure his endurance, speed, strength, agility, and anything else they could think of, though he kept a watchful eye on the other man’s condition, not willing to trust the doctors who were more interested in the test results than in William himself.

When the tests were over, Wesley instructed the nurse to draw another vial of blood so they could compare it to the first batch they’d taken from William the week before. As soon as Wesley told him they were finished, and William was unhooked from the machines and his IV removed, Xander pulled him into a hug - more for his own peace of mind than for William’s, though he hoped William found it comforting, too.

While William showered and changed out of the scrubs and back into his own clothes, Xander cornered Wesley and asked him about the tests that had been performed under his guidance. He assured Xander that the tests would cause William no lasting harm, though he might be a bit more tired than usual that day due to the unusual and strenuous exercise he’d been subjected to, and that they would have the results collated and examined within a couple days. He would call them as soon as he had anything to report.

Xander barely gave a freshly-showered William a chance to say goodbye to Wesley before he was dragging him towards the door. “Let’s get out of here,” he said, holding William’s hand in a death grip.

“Wait! Please,” Wesley called as he hurried after them.

Xander wanted to ignore him, but it turned out that the damn door wouldn’t open from the inside without a key card, either, so he was stuck. He gave it one final tug and an irritated kick, and then turned to face Wesley with an exasperated look. William squeezed his hand, rubbing the back of it soothingly with his thumb.

“What is it, Mr. Pryce?” he asked.

“Wesley,” Wesley said. “Please, call me Wesley. And I was hoping to schedule an appointment for the next stage of testing; a CAT scan and an EEG.”

Xander, who just wanted to get out of there so he could make sure William was all right without an interested audience, growled. William squeezed his hand again, in gentle warning, and responded to Wesley’s query. “Is next Monday good for you?” he asked.

Wesley looked disappointed, as if he was hoping William would offer to come in the next day, but nodded his agreement. “Next Monday will be fine,” he said. “I’ll have everything ready at... What time would you like to come in?” he asked.

“You said the tests would only take an hour or so?” William confirmed.

“The CAT scan will take approximately 15 minutes,” he said. “The EEG about an hour.”

“Then how about noon?” William suggested.

“Noon it is,” Wesley said, making a notation in the small handheld he pulled out of the back pocket of his jeans.

“Can we go now?” Xander nearly snarled in impatience.

“Oh, yes, of course!” Wesley said, whipping out his key card and swiping it down the reader beside the door handle. There was a ‘Click!’, and Xander jerked the door open. He nearly dashed down the hallway, only to have to wait for Wesley to catch up with them to unlock the double doors that led out of the Medical Wing.

As soon as they were outside, Xander paused in the shadows of the tall brick building and pulled William into his arms. William cooed into his ear and patted his back reassuringly, and Xander laughed at the incongruity of William being the one to soothe him. He pulled back enough to look into William’s face.

“Hungry?” he asked.

“Famished!” William replied with a grin. “Where shall we go?”

At his easy response and wide grin, Xander felt the hard knot in his stomach begin to dissolve. “Someplace where I can hold your hand,” he said emotionally, still unwilling to let go of the other man.

William regarded him with a steady, unblinking gaze, and then his lips curved into a smile. Not The Smile, but damned close. “We could always go home,” he suggested, with a lift of one eyebrow. “You could hold more than my hand there.”

Xander sucked in a breath at the look on William’s face as the knot in his belly turned to butterflies. “Haven’t you had enough exercise today?” he asked breathlessly.

William pressed tighter against him, and the hard line of his member dug into Xander’s leg. “I don’t know why,” he whispered, “but I’ve been hard as a rock nearly since we got here.”

Xander’s eye widened in disbelief. Not at the fact that William had been hard, but that he’d been too distracted to notice. “Really?” he rasped.

“Oh, yeah,” William responded huskily. “Let’s find a taxi and go home. We can get a sandwich or something on the way to work. After.”

Xander swallowed hard, his eye widening. “After?” he croaked. “‘Kay,” he agreed hurriedly, turning to look for a free taxi.

The ride back to the apartment seemed interminable; Xander thought they would never get there. Especially since William slipped his hand inside Xander’s pants the moment they got in the back seat, and squeezed and kneaded him until the taxi pulled up to the curb, when he casually pulled his hand out, raised it to his mouth, and licked Xander’s pre-come off his palm before opening the door and climbing out. Xander fumbled with his wallet and threw the fare plus an exorbitant tip at the driver, then dove out the door after William.

They ran up the stairs to their apartment, calling a distracted hello to an elderly neighbor who watched in surprise as they raced down the hallway. As soon as the door closed behind them, they were on one another like wild animals; lips kissing, tongues licking, teeth biting, nails scratching, and fingers ripping at clothes. In their haste to be naked, they tumbled to the floor. William bit his way up Xander’s torso. The feel of sharp teeth drove him mad, and Xander arched into the touch as he begged to be fucked.

The touch of William’s cock between his cheeks brought him back to his senses, if only momentarily. “Condom,” he grunted as William sucked and bit at his nipples while prodding his hole with jerky movements of his hips.

William growled low and deep in his throat, but loosened his grip enough so Xander could scramble to his feet and over to the end table, ripping the drawer out and dumping it onto the floor. He found the tube of lube and threw it at William, then ripped open the foil packet and withdrew the rolled latex. He placed the condom over William’s red, swollen, and leaking cockhead and unrolled it while the other man covered his fingers in lube.

As soon as Xander was done, William moved him backwards, then twirled him around and bent him over the arm of the chair, kicking his legs apart. Xander groaned in anticipation as William manhandled him, and then the other man’s fingers were between his butt cheeks, spreading them, circling his entrance, and then one plunged inside him. Xander screamed with surprise and pain at the sudden intrusion, and then again in pleasure as William’s finger drove unerringly against his prostate.

Xander bucked his hips, rubbing his now aching cock against the chair and pushing back against William’s hand as the other man replaced one finger with two, and then three, alternately stretching and pleasuring him. “William, Will, please, God, William,” Xander babbled, and then William removed his fingers. He grasped Xander’s hips hard enough to leave bruises as he rammed his cock into Xander and slammed into his swollen nub. Xander screamed, arched, and pushed back onto the hard shaft impaling him.

William pulled out and drove into him again, thrusting hard, and fast, and deep. Xander heard a keening noise, and realized it was William. His legs started to tremble and his vision blurred. William let go of his hip with one hand and wrapped his slicked fingers around Xander’s turgid organ and, with two pulls, brought him off. Xander screamed again as the orgasm wracked his body, then collapsed onto the chair as his knees finally gave out.

The only thing that kept him on his feet, in the loosest sense of the phrase, was William’s hands on his hips. The other man was grunting and panting with effort as he pumped his hips, shoving his cock into Xander even as he pulled him back onto the hard flesh spearing him. William froze behind him, a primal scream erupting from his throat as his cock pulsed inside him, and then he fell limply forward onto Xander’s back.

When Xander woke, he and William were lying on the floor in a tangle of limbs. He was more sore than he could ever remember being after sex with William, and momentarily wondered what had come over William, over them. He checked his watch and realized that they were going to be late for work, even without stopping for a sandwich on the way. He rolled over, groaning at the twinge in his abused ass.

“Will,” he called softly. “William.” The other man didn’t move. “Will?” Suddenly worried, Xander reached for his throat and felt for a pulse. William’s heart was beating steadily, his chest rising and falling evenly. Xander sighed deeply in relief, rested his head on William’s chest for a moment, and then tried to wake him again.

William was so deeply asleep that Xander couldn’t wake him. The testing must have exhausted him more than he’d let on, he thought. He’d let him sleep for a little while, but if he didn’t wake soon, he’d have to call Wesley to see if this was normal. He blushed as he remembered the wild sex they’d had, and wondered briefly if it had anything to do with William’s current unconscious state.

He cleaned himself and William up, and then tucked the other man into bed, lying beside him for a while to make sure he continued to breathe evenly. When he was sure William was sleeping comfortably, he returned to the living room to pick up their discarded clothes. He found his phone and placed a call to Prologue, telling William’s boss that the other man was unable to come to work. Because she was worried about him, Xander explained that William had some blood drawn that afternoon and it made him pass out, but that he should be okay tomorrow.

After hanging up, he stared at the phone in his hand. He really didn’t want to leave William alone. Sighing, he called O’Reilly’s and spoke with Paulie. Despite the fact that it was Monday night and sure to be hopping with the football crowd, Paulie agreed to give him the night off after he gave him a pared-down version of why he needed it, and added that he hoped William was feeling better soon.

While he was throwing clothes into the hamper, Xander did a quick spin around their bedroom and picked up the pile of clothes they’d shucked Sunday morning after William’s nightmare. He felt something stiff when he picked William’s shirt up, and pulled the strip of pictures they’d had taken at the photo booth out of the pocket. After dumping the clothes, he sat on the bed and looked at them. It was almost embarrassing how lost he looked, lost in William, his face contorted in pleasure as William worked him towards climax in front of the camera.

He carefully placed the pictures on William’s bedside table and then crawled beneath the covers with the other man, wanting to hold him while he slept like the dead. Xander shivered at that thought. He tugged an unresponsive William into his arms, and then laid in the bed staring at the ceiling. He must have drifted off, because when he woke, William was muttering in his sleep as he did most mornings before he came fully awake.

Taking it as a sign that William would soon regain consciousness, Xander decided to order some food. He’d seen William eat after heavy sex before, and nothing they’d experienced in the past compared to today. He wanted to have food on hand so he could feed William the moment he woke. Xander pulled on a pair of sweat pants, taking one last look at his sleeping lover before grabbing the phone and heading to the living room so he wouldn’t wake him.

He called in an order to the Italian place down the block for pizza, wings, and a large sub, and then padded to the kitchen to turn the oven on so he could keep the warm food warm when it arrived. Settling on the couch in front of the television, he flipped through the stations while he waited for the delivery.

Xander had just put the pizza and wings in the oven, the sub in the refrigerator, and resettled himself on the couch when William appeared in the bedroom doorway. He looked perfectly edible as he shuffled tiredly over to the couch, one hand in his tousled curls, a pair of Xander’s sweats riding dangerously low on his slender hips.

“Hey,” Xander said softly, opening his arms as William crawled onto his lap. He groaned under his breath as his ass smarted when William’s slight bulk pushed him firmly into the couch seat.

“What’s wrong?” William asked sleepily, his lips nuzzling Xander’s neck.

“My butt’s a little sore,” Xander teased, wrapping his arms around William’s back.

William stiffened. “I hurt you?” he asked worriedly.

“No! No,” Xander said quickly. “Well, only in a good way,” he amended with a smile.

“I’m sorry, Xander. I...I don’t know what came over me,” William said, sitting up and trying to pull out of Xander’s arms.

“Hey,” Xander said softly, reassuringly, refusing to let go of him. “You didn’t hurt me. Not any more than I wanted, anyway. What we did - whatever the hell it was - we did together. I was there every step of the way. And I loved it, in case you didn’t notice,” he added.

William’s fingers played nervously with the skin covering Xander’s collarbone as he stared unseeingly at it. “Really?” he finally asked, his voice small, unsure.

“Really,” Xander said. “Really, really.”

There had been way too many sober moments during their day, and not enough William-smiles, so Xander decided to fix that. He danced his fingers over William’s unprotected sides, tickling him unmercifully while the other man squirmed and squealed in his lap, trying to get away from the tormenting fingers, until he was limp and breathless in Xander’s arms and begging him to stop. Xander did, but only to bury his fingers in William’s hair and pull his face close for a long, slow kiss.

“Love you,” he whispered against William’s parted lips as his gasping breaths tickled Xander’s face.

“Love you, too, Xan,” William said, leaning his forehead against Xander’s while he brought his breathing back under control. He sniffed once, then again. “Is that pizza I smell?” he asked hungrily.

Part Twenty-Three

They made it through the next week relatively unscathed as the days passed uneventfully. There was no repeat of the hot monkey sex for which Xander’s ass was grateful, even though the mere thought of it made his groin tingle. Work was quiet, though everyone at Prologue and O’Reilly’s treated William with kid gloves until they were certain he wasn’t going to break.

Wesley called them with the test results that Wednesday. He used all sorts of big words, but the bottom line was that William’s endurance, strength, agility, and speed, unsurprisingly, were above the human norm. On Friday he called to say that Angel’s blood had shown the same B & T-cell mutation as William’s, though on a larger scale, but HLA testing had revealed no genetic match between them, so he didn’t think it was necessary to order a DNA test at this time. There was, he added, a minuscule change in William’s blood. He wasn’t sure what it meant, but he wanted to keep an eye on it.

Xander met with Gunn and Angel for training on Tuesday and Thursday, and William joined them on Sunday, when Cordy made an appearance to remind them that they were coming over to the hotel for Thanksgiving that Thursday. Xander groaned, and Cordy sharply slapped the back of his head.

“Ow! Hey!” He pouted at William as he rubbed the back of his head. “She hit me!”

“You probably deserved it for being a git,” William replied distractedly as he watched Angel and Gunn, who were showing him a new hold.

Cordy sniffed. “Hmm. He’s smarter than I gave him credit for,” she said, before spinning on her toes and sweeping majestically out of the training room.

Xander’s eye narrowed as he contemplated William’s fate for leaving him to face the wrath of Cordy alone. As if he read his mind, William slowly turned his head and looked at Xander with dark eyes. Xander’s breath caught. William licked his lips, and pulled the bottom one between his teeth, then turned his attention back to the two men on the mat. Xander groaned.

“You all right?” He heard Angel’s voice, and jerked his head up to see the other three men staring at him.

“Uh, yeah,” he said, blushing. He was going to kill William, who was grinning at him.

“You sure?” Angel asked solicitously.

“Yes, fine!” Xander said loudly, nearly certain he saw the corners of Angel’s lips twitch. “Go on!” He waved his hand at them. “Finish what you were doing. Please,” he mumbled, turning away and heading for the bench where he could pretend that Angel didn’t know William had just made him hard as a rock with a heated look and a flash of tongue.

Monday morning arrived with little fanfare. Probably because Xander was too distracted by thoughts of spending Thanksgiving with Cordy and Angel to be as worried about the further testing William would be undergoing that day. They arrived at W&H with minutes to spare and were directed to the same floor they’d been to on their last visit. Wesley again met them at the elevator and escorted them to the ‘Vampire Studies’ lab.

William was once more directed to change into a set of scrubs. While he was gone, Xander fidgeted nervously. “So,” he finally asked Wesley, “what’s this test again?”

“CAT scan,” Wesley replied. “It will take an x-ray picture of William’s brain.”

“Oh,” Xander said, nodding, and then asked, “What for? I mean, what’s it going to tell you? What are you looking for, a brain tumor?” He gave a nervous laugh, then froze. “You’re not looking for a brain tumor, are you?”

“No, Xander,” Wesley said calmly, “I’m not looking for a brain tumor.”

“Oh, good,” Xander said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Then, uh, what...?”

“Well,” Wesley said, a little too excitedly for Xander’s peace of mind. “My thought is that the brain of a vampire might be different from the brain of the human host, not in size, but in, well, in use, if you get my meaning. There are certain parts of the brain that a vampire wouldn’t have to use, such as the part that regulates heart rate and breathing. Over years of non-use, would those parts of the brain remain the same, or would they atrophy from disuse, such as the muscles in a paraplegic?”

Wesley’s hands waved about his head as he explained his theory to Xander, though he tried to keep his voice down so that they didn’t distract the doctor - Doctor Kingston, Xander thought - from his task of standing around and looking important while he waited for William.

“William’s brain, since he is fully human, might not show any changes at all. Then again, if he has any of Spike’s...characteristics, if you will, we might be able to see a slight differentiation. I’ve also gotten Angel to agree to undergo the scan so that we can not only see what the brain of a vampire looks like, but also compare their results to each other. In addition, I have a scan of another human male, in good health, to use as a baseline.”

When William returned, they were taken into a room they hadn’t used previously, and which Xander wasn’t sure had even been there. He watched as the other man was instructed to lay down on a narrow table which was then adjusted until his head was inside a cylindrical machine. He gave William an encouraging smile just before he was hustled out of the room and into one from which he could watch William through a large glass window. The doctor was talking to William through a microphone, but Xander barely heard the words as he kept his eye locked on his lover in the other room.

After the CAT scan was completed, Wesley led them down the hall to yet another room where they were told the EEG would be performed. Xander looked around him in confusion.

“Did this space get bigger since the last time we were here?” he asked.

“Well,” Wesley said thoughtfully, “Fred has been mucking about in cross-dimensional pathways...”

Xander’s eye widened in horror.

“Just kidding,” Wesley said with a grin. “We took over the next set of rooms so we could expand to fit in the additional equipment,” he explained.

Xander breathed a sigh of relief. “You’re a funny, funny man, Wes,” he muttered sarcastically.

“This is the electroencephalograph,” he said eagerly. “It measures the electrical activity of the brain - brain waves - and generates a record of it. Electrodes will be placed on William’s scalp and attached to the electroencephalograph, which is basically an amplifier. The electroencephalograph will be connected to this machine, which will convert the electrical impulses into a graph of sorts by the vertical movement of this pen over that sheet of paper.” He pointed to the machine. “The recording is called an electroencephalogram, or EEG.”2

“Why are we doing this?” Xander asked, looking at the machine suspiciously. He didn’t like the sound of electrodes being attached to William’s scalp. It brought to mind a grisly image of someone undergoing electric shock therapy.

“The examination of brain waves, there are several types of waves, and the detection of abnormalities in the waves, can lead to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as epilepsy and stroke,” Wesley explained.3

“And how will that help William?” Xander pushed for more information, as William moved closer so their shoulders brushed.

“We don’t know for certain that it will, Xander,” Wesley replied. “We don’t know that any of the tests we’ve run will give us any conclusive answers, but the brain is a very fascinating and complex instrument. It directly controls all conscious and voluntary behavior, such as walking and talking, and also monitors most involuntary behavior, such as heart rate.4 It’s possible that we might be able to determine why William can’t remember anything before, what did you say, four or five months ago? At any rate, whether the test reveals anything about William’s situation or not, it won’t hurt him, and could turn out to be very informative.” He looked between the two men.

“I recommend gathering as much information as we can, but why don’t we leave the two of you alone for a moment to discuss this?” he suggested. With a look he sent the doctor out of the room. “We’ll be in the outer room, let me know what you decide,” he said, and then followed him out and closed the door behind him.

“What’s wrong?” William immediately asked him.

“I just...” Xander paused. “I hate all these tests!” he exploded, slamming his fist against his thigh. “I hate that you...”

“Hey,” William said, taking him into his arms and trying to calm him. “I’m fine. And as far as tests go, these have been a piece of cake. No treadmills, yeah?”

“And no needles,” Xander added, feeling some of his stiffness dissolve at William’s touch.

William shivered. “Ugh, don’t remind me! I hate needles!”

“I noticed,” Xander said with a smile. “Why is that, anyway?”

William just raised his eyebrows.

“Oh, right.” Xander snorted a little laugh. “Never mind. Sorry.”

“Actually,” William said softly, “I do remember. My first memory - when I woke up in the hospital - is being stuck with a needle. I think they did it when I was in the coma. This nurse, I don’t know if she was new or just didn’t know what she was bleedin’ doing, but she couldn’t get the needle in right, and so she kept poking me. It hurt like bloody hell, but I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t say anything.” William’s voice was colored with distress.

“Oh, William,” Xander said, tightening his hold on the other man. “I didn’t know. You didn’t seem to be afraid when they drew your blood that first time, in Wesley’s office.” Xander’s brow furrowed.

William swallowed hard. “I was. You just...couldn’t tell because I was already freaked about...everything, and I didn’t... I didn’t want you to think I was a wuss, so I didn’t say anything, just held on tighter when I saw the needle,” he admitted.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Xander said. “You can tell me anything. You’re not a wuss. I’d never think you were a wuss. In fact, give me her name, I’ll send Cordy after her,” he offered.

William gave him a small smile.

“I’d go myself,” Xander said, “but then who would be here to make sure you get enough lovin’?” He kissed him.

“Mmm,” William moaned as Xander pulled away. “Sending Cordy’s a good idea. Plus, then she won’t be here for Thanksgiving.”

“Ack, I can’t believe you had to remind me of that!” Xander squealed. “And I can’t believe we have to go over there for dinner. Do you think they’ll make us stay the whole day? At least Gunn and Fred will be there. And you’ll get to meet Lorne.” He giggled, then turned serious. “Oh dear lord,” he said, sounding just like Giles, but without the accent. “Do you think we should offer to take something?”

“Probably,” William said, nodding, a smile on his face at Xander’s babble. “Think we can let them back in now?” he asked.

“If we have to,” Xander groaned.

Thursday morning came way too soon for Xander. Especially since he woke up alone in bed. His first thought was that something was wrong with William, and he jerked up in the bed, his heart pounding. Then he heard William humming from the other room. Curious, Xander climbed out of bed, pulled on his patch and a pair of sweats, then tip-toed out of the bedroom, through the living room, and over to the kitchen doorway. He leaned against the frame and watched as William hummed a tune Xander didn’t recognize while he pinched the edges of a pie crust.

“What are you doing?” Xander asked.

William screamed and nearly shoved the pie he was working on into the wall. “Jesus Christ, Xander!” He turned and stared at Xander, eyes wide, chest heaving...flour on his cheek. “You scared the... Why are you smiling like that?” he asked suspiciously.

“You look really sexy with flour on your cheek,” Xander said, taking a couple steps into the kitchen.

William’s hand automatically went to his cheek and he swiped at it with the back of his hand.

“I like the apron, too,” he said, running his eye over William, who was dressed in a pair of Xander’s gray sweats, his bare feet peeking out of the baggy bottoms, a blue t-shirt, and the frilly apron in question. “Really like the apron,” Xander said with a suggestive curl of his lips.

“I’m busy,” William said, snatching the pie up and holding it in front of him defensively.

“I see that,” Xander said, his smile widening. “Now I know the allure of keeping your woman barefoot and pregnant. Though in this case, it’s my William barefoot in the kitchen.”

William, obviously unimpressed with Xander’s comparison, growled. “I am not a woman,” he said.

“No,” Xander agreed. “You definitely are not.” He was now close enough to run his hands over William’s hips despite the pie barrier. “You gonna put that in the oven?” he asked hopefully.

“I have to make another one,” William said. “Back off!” He pushed Xander lightly with the pie pan.

Xander smiled, which made William’s eyes narrow. “Okay,” he said agreeably. “I’ll just watch.” He backed up slowly. “That’s all right, isn’t it?” he asked innocently.

William, eyes still narrowed warily, said, “I s’pose so. Sit over there.” He indicated the table across the small kitchen with a tilt of his head.

“Can I get some coffee first?” Xander asked, smelling the freshly brewed drink for the first time.

“Don’t push it,” William said, slowly turning his back on Xander and setting the pie aside.

Xander fixed his coffee and sat at the table watching William roll out the dough for the second pie and place it in the pie tin. He filled the dough with a raspberry mixture, and then placed the top crust over it, expertly trimming and fluting the edges.

“What’s the other one?” Xander asked.

“Apple,” William replied absently. When he was done, he set that pie beside the other, opened the oven, and pulled out two lightly browned pie crusts. He put the two pies in the oven and then set to work filling the other two crusts with pumpkin pie filling and chocolate pudding.

“How many are you making?” Xander asked curiously. William had told him that one of his transitory jobs had been in a diner, which is where he had learned to cook, and had on occasion had to fill in for the pastry chef - otherwise known as Bertha, the owner of the diner - when her bursitis acted up.

“Four,” William replied, placing the pumpkin pie in the oven with the others and setting the timer. He put the chocolate pie in the refrigerator, and then began to clean up the mess he’d made on the counter.

Xander was behind him immediately, chest to back, groin to ass. “You done?” he asked silkily, his hands lightly running up and down William’s bare arms.

“Gotta clean up,” William said, but his voice was a little bit shaky, and Xander wondered if he hadn’t been anticipating this the entire time Xander was sitting at the table watching him. Xander knew he certainly had been.

“Clean up can wait,” Xander purred, turning William around in his arms and pushing him back into the counter. William’s erection pressed into his thigh, and Xander smiled at the proof that the other man’s attention had not, in fact, been fully occupied with the pies he was baking. “That for me?” he asked, nibbling along William’s neck.

“No,” William denied breathlessly as Xander sucked on his neck just where he knew his lover liked it. “I just really like to bake p-pie.”

“Mmm,” Xander agreed with a moan. “I wanna bake something, too,” he said, snatching at the hem of the t-shirt and pulling it over William’s head. “Which part do you like best?” he asked between tongue swipes over William’s nipples. “Getting things all heated up?” Suck. Bite. “Or the actual eating?”

William started to speak, but Xander silenced him with a kiss. William moaned into his mouth as Xander undulated against him, pressing their groins together and creating a delicious friction that almost had him coming, especially after the time spent thinking about doing just this very thing to William. Xander reached behind William and grasped the waistband of his sweats. Pulling him away from the counter, he tugged on them, shoving them down over hips and thighs.

He continued to kiss William as he ran his hands up and down William’s bare thighs as far as he could reach, and then stroked his thumbs over the bottom curve of pert buttocks. He pulled away to divest William of the sweats, and then stood back to look at him. His eyes were wide and glazed, his chest rising and falling rapidly, his cock jutting proudly beneath the apron he still wore.

“Really like that apron,” Xander mumbled. He let his eye roam hungrily over William’s body - chest, shoulders, arms, and feet - bare except for cross and apron. With a quick move, he turned him. From the back William’s nakedness was interrupted only by the apron strings which had been tied into a bow, the ends of which hung down over William’s butt cheeks.

Xander placed his hand over one buttock, the string captured between their flesh, and rubbed, kneaded. The rough texture of the apron string against his palm as he squeezed the smooth, satiny flesh of William’s taut cheek was arousing. He leaned forward and kissed the back of William’s neck and along his shoulder as he brought his other hand up to knead the other cheek. William groaned and gripped the edge of the counter as Xander’s touch grew harder, more insistent.

Xander let go of him long enough to shuck his own sweat pants, and then pressed back up against him, his hands tight on the other man’s hips, his own erection insinuating itself between the cheeks he’d just been fondling. William groaned again, pushing back and rubbing himself against Xander, as Xander bit his neck.

“What’s this?” Xander asked, reaching into the tub on the counter.

“Sh-shortening,” William responded with a moan.

“‘S slippery, right?” Xander asked, and without waiting for William’s reply scooped his fingers into the shortening, then took a step back and pressed his fingers between William’s cheeks. “Spread your legs, love,” Xander rasped as his fingers circled his lover’s pucker, preparing him for entry. William whimpered and did as he was told, and Xander pressed one finger inside him.

“Oh...bloody...fuck,” William groaned as Xander twisted his finger, coating the other man’s passage with the makeshift lube.

Xander leaned back in and bit William’s neck as he replaced his finger with two, alternately stretching his fingers and reaching for his lover’s pleasure spot. William bent forward and gripped the counter edge tighter as he pushed back onto Xander’s fingers. Xander growled against William’s shoulder as he pumped his slicked fingers in and out of the other man’s ass. He slipped his other hand beneath the apron and stroked hard flesh. William writhed in his hands, grunting and panting as Xander worked him towards orgasm, stroking his cock with one hand and driving into his prostate with the other.

Xander began to thrust against William’s hip as he slid a third finger into him. The sound of the other man’s moan as he filled him caused Xander to move his hips faster while he gave William time to adjust, and then began to pump his fingers again, fucking his lover’s ass even as he stroked and pulled his cock and humped his hip, sucking madly on any skin he could reach along his shoulder and neck.

With a growl, he forced himself to pull away from William. “Get on the table,” he commanded, as he pulled a drawer out. There had better still be condoms in here, he thought madly. There was. He snatched one out and turned to watch William lift himself onto the table. He tore it open with his teeth, then covered himself as he stalked across the kitchen. William whimpered at the gleam in his eye.

“Lay down.” Xander grabbed William’s hips and pulled him to the edge of the table with a squeak of skin as the other man laid back and lifted his legs. He threw the apron off William’s groin, bent over him, and swallowed his cock as he used the rest of the shortening on his own. William’s squeal of surprise and pleasure maddened him. With one last slurping suck, he released William’s cock, stood, gripped his lover’s hips, and drove into him.

“Oh, fuck, X-Xander,” William groaned as Xander pistoned his hips and repeatedly rammed into him. “God, yes, oh, hell, fuck, Xan,” he continued to babble, Xander fucking him senseless as the table legs screeched on the old linoleum.

“You feel so fucking good,” Xander rasped, his fingers digging into William’s hips hard enough to leave bruises. “Fucking beautiful. Mine.”

“Yours, Xan, please, oh, God, please,” William rambled, then screamed as Xander closed his slippery hand around the cock bobbing against the other man’s stomach with every thrust, and began to pump it. The table jumped forward with each violent slam of Xander’s hips, and the sound of flesh slapping flesh, hoarse cries, and creaking wood filled the kitchen.

Xander studied the man laid out on the table before him like a banquet. William’s head was tilted to the side, his face contorted with passion, legs pulled back and spread wide, opening himself up for Xander, chest slicked with sweat. He was fucking gorgeous, and he was Xander’s. “Mine,” he growled again, filled with an overwhelming sense of love, desire, possession. “Mine.”

“Yours, yours,” William gasped. “Please, Xan, so close...”

Xander tightened his grip, squeezing as he slid his hand up and down William’s shaft, changing the rhythm of his thrusts so that he hit William’s prostate with each draw on his cock. Moments later William screamed as his orgasm tore through him. His cock pulsed in Xander’s hand and thick fluid shot out, covering hand and stomach. Xander threw his head back and roared as William’s internal muscles closed around him, and he came.

Muscles quivering, he lowered himself over William’s still trembling body. William’s arms slowly came up to encircle his back, fingers moving lightly over damp flesh. Xander groaned, and placed a kiss on William’s collarbone. “Love you,” he gasped out.

“Love you, too,” William said breathlessly.

They lay there for several more minutes, catching their breaths and allowing their bodies to recover. A buzzer sounded, and William lifted his head off the table, a puzzled look on his face. His expression cleared with understanding, and he dropped his head back down.

“Gotta check the pies,” he said.

2 Definition taken from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000, and The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001, found at
3 Information obtained from The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001, found at
4 Information obtained from The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001, found at

Part Twenty-Four

“You’re late,” Cordy announced as soon as they walked into the kitchen, which was bustling with activity. Cordy was putting the final touches on the table while Lorne bent over the open oven door to check the turkey and Fred pushed buttons on the microwave.

“Sorry,” Xander said, moving out of Cordy’s way as she moved around the table to place the last folded napkin into a glass. “We got a little, uh, tied up.”

Cordy turned to face him, her hands resting on her hips. “I so don’t want to hear about your sexual escapades before I eat,” she said.

“Cordy!” Fred squealed, and then giggled. “Hi, Xander, William,” she greeted them both with a smile.

“Heya, Fred,” Xander said, trying to smile despite the knowledge that he was turning several shades of red, each darker than the other.

“Hi,” William said softly.

“That better be pie,” Cordy said, ignoring them and eyeing the plastic container Xander was carrying.

“It’s pie,” William replied, then tilted his head and asked seriously, “Does Xander like to be tied up during sex?”

“Will-iam!” Xander screeched, slapping at his arm as William danced out of reach, a grin and an expression that said he’d just found an extra present under the tree on his face.

“Eeuww!” Cordy cried, her face scrunching up in disgust. “I don’t know!”

“Oh,” William said, with a deep sigh of disappointment that Xander hoped was faked - or maybe not. “I thought maybe you’d know, since you and Xander...”

“No!” Cordy interrupted. “You’d have to ask one of his other ex’s, like Anya. Maybe she...” Cordy froze, then glanced guiltily at Xander. “Sorry,” she said, then quickly added, “Here, let me take the pies.”

“That’s all right,” Xander said, refusing to relinquish the pie carrier, the sound of Anya’s name not slicing into him like a knife, as it once might have. He placed his hand on Cordy’s arm and held fast to the plastic handle she was trying to tug out of his grip.

‘It’s all right,” he repeated, then decided to change tactics when Cordy didn’t seem to be listening to him. “She had a favorite pair of cuffs, leather, with fur lining...”

“Eeuww, Xander, stop!” Cordy cried, letting go of the handle to cover her ears.

Xander took the opportunity to pull her into a hug, and she wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders, burying her face in his neck.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“I’m sorry she died,” Xander said, “but I don’t want to never talk about her again.”

Cordy pulled back, her eyes suspiciously bright. “Give me these pies before you drop them,” she said, as if Xander couldn’t be trusted to hold onto them anymore, despite the fact he’d carried them all the way over. She turned away to set the carrier on the counter, but Xander didn’t miss the surreptitious swipe of a finger under her eye. “What kind did you make?” she asked, changing the subject.

William slipped past Xander and set the container he was carrying onto the counter beside the other. “Apple, raspberry, pumpkin, and chocolate pudding,” he told her. “Got room in the fridge and freezer?” he asked, raising the paper bag holding the whipping cream and vanilla ice cream.

“Sure!” Cordy said, sounding happy to have something to do so she didn’t have to look at Xander. While Cordy and William were stowing the cold items, Xander moved around the table to Lorne, who was lifting the turkey out of the pan to set on a large platter.

“Hey, Lorne,” he greeted the green demon.

“Howdy, cupcake,” Lorne replied, then glanced over his shoulder at William. He turned red eyes back on Xander. “So, that’s your new honey bun,” he said with a smile.

Xander smiled back, which widened into a grin when he caught William’s eye. “Yeah,” he agreed, “that’s my little Twinkie™.”

William frowned. “Twinkie™?” he asked. “Why’m I a Twinkie™?”

“You ever eat a Twinkie™?” Xander asked, eyebrows raised suggestively.

“Oh, God,” Cordy groaned as she closed the freezer door. “More sex talk.”

William blushed. “Twinkie™ is sex talk?” he asked.

“Not for normal people,” Cordy said. “But for Xander? Yes. And we’re not having it at the dinner table,” she said firmly, giving Xander a warning look.

Xander just looked back at her innocently, and then crooked his finger at William. As if in a trance, William glided across the room and into Xander’s arms, planting a quick kiss on his lips. Xander placed one hand behind William’s head when the other man started to pull away, and deepened the kiss.

“Wow,” Lorne said, fanning himself. “Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Cordy drawled, seemingly unimpressed with their display. “Did you leave the oven door open?”

“I think it’s cute,” Fred said.

“What’s cute?” Angel asked from the doorway.

“Them,” Cordy said disgustedly, pointing a wooden spoon in Xander and William’s direction. “PDA’s, when they’re not mine, just make me jealous.” She walked up to Angel. “Kiss me.”

Angel dragged his eyes away from the two men kissing and back to Cordy. “Kiss you?”

“You don’t want to kiss me?” she asked, eyes narrowing dangerously.

“No! I mean, yes! Of course, I want to kiss you!”

“If you don’t want me to lace your blood with...something ickier than blood...whatever that might be,” she replied, now waving the spoon at him.

“You waving that around for show, or planning on using it?” he asked, his voice low.

“I’ll use it,” she promised, “if you give me a kiss.”

Gunn froze at the sight that greeted him when he stepped into the kitchen, the laughter at something Wesley had said dying in his throat. “Whoa! What’d I miss?” he asked.

“Charles,” Fred said plaintively. “Have you ever eaten a Twinkie™?”

“Twinkie™?” he asked, confused. “Yeah. Why? Or do I even want to know?”

“Why could it be considered sexy?” she asked.

“Mmm. Want me to show you?” he asked, stepping up to her and sliding his arms around her waist.

Wesley, eyes wide, looked around the kitchen until he met Lorne’s gaze.

“Tempting, sugar,” Lorne said. “But you’re really not my type.”

Wesley rolled his eyes.

Xander, sprawled on one of the couches in the lobby, groaned pitifully. “I ate too much,” he whined.

“Whose fault is that?” Cordy asked without a trace of sympathy.

“Yours,” he insisted. “I didn’t know you could actually cook. I had to have thirds just to prove it was true.”

Cordy gave him a dirty look over her shoulder, and then turned back to the television. “I didn’t,” she said, struggling with the remote. “I planned it, ‘cause I’m good at planning, but Fred and Lorne did the actual cooking. Damn it!” she swore and shook the remote.

“Why do we need to watch football anyway?” Xander asked, reaching for William’s hand. He’d much rather curl up with William and take a nap. He really had eaten way too much.

“Because it’s tradition,” Cordy growled. “And we bought a television. Fred!” she yelled, and happily turned the remote over to the other girl.

“Did you put batteries in it?” Fred asked, sliding open the battery compartment.

“Batteries?” Cordy asked.

Xander woke when William jerked beside him, stabbing an elbow into his side. He opened a bleary eye and looked around the room. Cordy was sitting on Angel’s lap, fast asleep while he watched the game with a look of complete boredom on his face. Or maybe that was his usual look, Xander couldn’t tell. Lorne and Wesley were sprawled on another couch, snoring. Gunn was sitting in a chair, leaning forward and staring intently at the screen, and Fred sat on the arm next to him, equally engrossed in the game.

“Tackle him, for God’s sake!” Gunn yelled at the television. “Oh, that’s it,” he said in disgust. “Get up limping!”

“What a pansy ass,” Fred said in agreement.

“That’s my girl,” Gunn said, rubbing his hand up and down her thigh. She smiled at him, and then slid off the arm and onto his lap. Gunn pulled her in for a squeeze and kissed her.

William mumbled something in his sleep, and started to thrash, pulling Xander’s attention away from the others and jolting him fully awake. He tightened the arm around William’s back and pulled him close. “William,” he whispered, trying to gently ease him out of the nightmare gripping him. “William,” he said again, giving him little shake, silently urging him to wake up.

William jerked once more, then stiffened, and Xander knew he was awake. “Hot,” he said.

Xander looked around, and then reached for the beer Fred was holding. She handed it to him without a word, a worried frown on her face. Xander rolled the cold bottle over William’s face, and placed it against his neck. “Better?” he asked.

William nodded, but if anything, snuggled closer to him. Xander kissed the top of his head, whispering words of comfort and love.

“What was that?” Cordy asked sleepily.

“Nightmare,” Xander replied shortly, too concerned with William to worry about being polite. He continued to hold him and mumble soothing, nonsense words until he could feel William relax as he left the dreamworld behind and returned to theirs.

“Has he had them before?” Angel asked softly.

Xander hesitated. “Yes,” he said.

“Is it...” Angel swallowed nervously. “Is it about...being a vampire?” he asked.

“No,” Xander said, and the dark vampire visibly relaxed.

“Is it a memory?” Wesley asked, his voice raspy with sleep, but no less intelligent for that.

Xander didn’t reply. He set the beer bottle down, brushed William’s bangs off his forehead, and kissed him. “Love you,” he whispered.

“It might help to talk about it,” Wesley continued. “Especially if he’s had it before. It’s probable he will continue to have it.”

“It’s up to William if he wants to talk about it,” Xander said, and everyone pretended to turn their attention to the game on the television to give the other man some privacy.

Finally William shifted on the couch, and Xander caught everyone stealing worried glances at him. How could he be angry with these people when they were concerned about William, also? No one spoke, though, and they continued to watch the game.

Gunn yelled, startling Xander and William, who hadn’t been paying any attention to the game. “Finally!” He jumped up and cheered. “Woo hoo!” he cried, twirling Fred around. “They finally scored! ‘Bout damn time,” he said, falling back into the chair with Fred on his lap.

Xander looked down and saw William studying the others in the room. As if he felt his eye on him, William glanced up at him. Xander smiled reassuringly at him, and stroked his cheek. William slid up his body until their lips were touching, then rested his forehead against Xander’s. “Love you back,” he said.

He turned around to face the others, and looked at Angel, and then Wesley. Someone muted the television. “I dream about burning,” he said.

“Burning?” Wesley repeated. “You mean...” He paused. “You dream about Spike’s death?”

“Yes,” William whispered. “I think so.”

Xander heard a strangled moan, and turned to see Angel’s stricken face. The dark vampire slowly turned away, and Xander thought he saw his features morph into the demon and back again several times, as if he was struggling to control himself. Cordy kissed his cheek and gently stroked his face.

“Well, that’s...”

“If you say ‘fascinating’,” Xander said drily, “I’m gonna hafta hurt you.”

“, terribly, uh, interesting...and horrible...for you,” Wesley finished. He looked as if he’d just remembered something. “You actually feel hot when you wake up?” he asked.

“Yes,” William croaked. “I need something to drink,” he said, attempting to push himself off the couch. “Throat’s dry.”

“I’ll get it!” Fred said, jumping off Gunn’s lap. She ran to the kitchen and returned with a bottle of water and a bottle of beer. “I didn’t know what you’d want,” she said.

William took the water, opened it, and drank half of it down without pause. Xander nodded his thanks to her, and then took the beer and did the same.

“Thanks,” William said, breathless from guzzling the water.

“You’re welcome,” Fred said. “Are you still hot? Do you need ice or anything?”

“No,” he said. “I cool down after I’ve been awake a bit,” he assured her.

“So, what does that tell you?” Xander asked Wesley.

“Hmm?” The other man looked up, startled from his thoughts. “Well, it certainly adds credence to our belief that William is, or was, Spike. And it’s also a good sign that William may regain all of his memories. Our minds sometimes protect us by...making us forget things. If William is starting to remember something as painful, both physically and emotionally, as his death, then that’s a good sign that the other, less painful memories will soon follow.”

“Great,” Xander muttered with a sick smile.

William, whether because he needed the comfort, or because Xander did, pressed himself closer to the other man, wrapped his arms around him, and kissed him. “It’ll make no difference, luv,” he whispered. “You’re mine. Not gonna leave you.”

“I, um, I have pictures,” Angel said. Everyone turned to stare at him. “Of, uh, Spike,” he added nervously.

“Pictures?” Xander asked. “I thought vamps didn’t photograph.”

“Not photos,” Angel corrected. “Drawings.”

“You have pictures of Spike?” William asked.

“Yes,” Angel said, his eyes darting to the other man. “Would you think it would be all right...”

“Can I see them?” William asked, and Xander tightened his hold on the slender man.

“Yes! Of course,” Angel agreed. “Let me just...” He stood and set Cordy in the chair, and then nearly ran to his office. He returned with a small leather portfolio. He sat down on the couch on the other side of William, and set the portfolio on the coffee table. He unzipped it, and flipped it open. A picture slid across the table and William picked it up. He looked at it before handing it back to Angel, and blushed. Angel took it and turned it upside down, and Xander wondered what Angel would look like if vampires could blush.

“What was that?” he asked, just to give Angel a hard time.

“Oh, uh, nothing,” he said, flipping through drawings and laying them face down until he got to the back, the older drawings.

Cordy slipped out of the chair and grabbed the pile of drawings Angel had flipped upside down, turned them over, and looked at the one on the bottom. Her eyes got big and her skin flushed. She turned flashing eyes on Angel, and he looked up at her apologetically.

“You will be getting that spanking later, Mister,” she threatened, and then knelt to go through the pictures. Xander saw pictures of Fred and Gunn kissing, Wesley researching, Lorne singing, Cordy smiling, Wesley sleeping with his head resting on a pile of books, Buffy, and the three of them, Buffy, Willow, and himself, laughing.

When he turned his attention back to William, Angel was showing him a picture of Spike soon after he’d been turned. His hair was long and curly, and his face still carried William’s...softness. It was strange, seeing Spike’s smile on William’s face. William stared at the picture for a long time, picking out the similarities and differences, Xander supposed, and then reached for the next one. This one was still partly William, but the change to Spike was more pronounced in his harder facial expression.

The next drawing was obviously done when Spike showed up in Sunnydale. His hair was short and slicked back, and his lips were turned up in a sneer. “That’s me?” William asked uncertainly.

“That’s Spike,” Xander said. “You’re you, and you’re perfect.”

“I have drawings of Dru...,” Angel broke off. “If you don’t think that would be too much.”

“Who’s Dru?” William asked, the drawing in his hand forgotten.

Xander started to shake as William reached for the picture. The other man absently rubbed Xander’s hand soothingly as he looked at the picture of Spike and Dru. “Were she and Spike...?” he asked.

“Yes,” Angel said softly.

William just nodded. “Does she have dark hair and dark eyes?” he asked, and Xander had a horrible moment when he thought William remembered her. “‘Cause that seems to be my type.” He dropped the drawing on the coffee table and turned to look at Xander. “Git,” he whispered, and Xander blushed.

William stared at him intently, and then moved in to kiss him. Xander groaned, his body tingling with anticipation, and then William was pressing against him, lips covering his, tongue demanding entry. With a moan, Xander surrendered, parting his lips and running his hands into William’s hair.

“Okay!” Cordy said, scrambling to her feet. “Anyone for pie?”

“Pie, definitely,” Angel said, jumping off the couch as if he’d been burned. “Love pie.”

“Me, too!” Fred squealed. “Can I have one of each?”

“You want four pieces of pie?” Cordy asked in disbelief.

“You questioning my girl’s ability to pack it away?” Gunn asked, patting Fred’s butt as he followed her into the kitchen. “What kind is there?”

“Pie, er, uh, yes. Pie sounds...absolutely smashing!” Wesley agreed, trying to keep his British cool as he quickly pushed himself to his feet.

“I’ll have some. Any kind,” Lorne said distractedly. “Can you bring mine out here...” Lorne’s request was cut off as Wesley jerked him off the couch.

Neither Xander nor William paid any attention as the room cleared. Xander pulled William onto his lap. “Have I mentioned,” he said between kisses, “how thankful I am for you?”

“Not recently,” William said. “You could show me. Oh, wait, already did that this morning,” he teased, smiling against Xander’s lips.

Xander smiled back as he remembered William spread out for him on the kitchen table, wearing nothing but the apron. “Mmm, yeah, I was very thankful this morning,” Xander moaned.

William wiggled his butt. “You feel pretty thankful now,” he said.

“If you want pie, you have to come and get it!” Cordy yelled from the kitchen. “‘Cause I am not coming back in there.”

“I’ll go,” Lorne offered.

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