Becoming Known


by
Tisienne Blue



Part Seventeen

Xander was expecting awkwardness when he finally made himself leave the bedroom the following morning.

Hell, awkwardness was the best case, he figured. Hatred, anger, loathing, disgust… yeah, any of those could be outside that door, as well.

What he hadn’t even remotely considered was that he’d walk into the living room only to be greeted by a shout from the kitchen.

“Bloody time you got your lazy ass outta bed, mate,” Spike called, flipping the bacon quickly. “Bit’s been up an’ out for hours now… ran off with bloody Kent ta crawl through the dump or some such. You want toast?”

He thought he’d managed the right tone. Friendly. Not possessive or demanding, just… a sort of ‘nothing happened, let’s move on’ attitude, no matter what he really wanted to do—which involved slamming Xander against a wall and snogging him long and deep until the bloke either passed out or admitted that whatever they’d started the night before wasn’t over… not by a long shot.

Problem was, he didn’t want to lose the friendship he and the human had found and if he did what he truly desired, that would completely bollocks everything up. Assuming the ‘kiss’ hadn’t done that already.

So there he was, making bloody bacon and eggs like some sodding housewife while his demon howled and railed against the very notion… and waited to see what the young man would do.

Xander stood in the kitchen doorway, staring at the blond for a good minute before he finally managed to find words that made sense when put together.

“Uh…” he shook his head and blinked. Maybe he’d dreamed it all… but no, because he’d seen the pillow and blanket still on the pull-out, and… “What, uh… what’s going on?”

The vampire snorted and arched one brow as he looked over his shoulder and held up the spatula in his hand. “Hear they’re callin’ it breakfast, mate… seem ta recall you bein’ right fond of it, judgin’ from the troughs you’ve tucked away in the past, yah?”

Okay… okay, Spike was doing the ignoring thing, and that was… good. He could ignore with the best of them. It was one of the many skills he’d acquired during his years of Scooby-age. “Hey! Did you just call me a pig?” he demanded, moving to the refrigerator and the carton of juice he knew was there, “Because you’re the one who keeps cooking, Mister Chef-y-Vamp!”

“Yah, well. Have ta keep my humans well fed, don’t I? Doesn’t mean you have to swallow down everything I put in front of you.”

Xander snorted. “Except you know I will, so that means you’re doing it on purpose, Spike,” he answered before cringing as he realized just how those words could be taken, and damn Kent for telling him so much about the being gay with the gayness and the gay swallowing and all that.

Spike froze for just a moment, wishing that were true, then smiled a little shakily. “Just tryin’ ta get you back in shape, mate. Still a bit on the gaunt side, yah?”

And maybe he wasn’t back to his pre-apocalypse weight, but he figured that was mostly because he hadn’t been getting the kind of workouts he’d been used to back when he’d actually had a job… and patrolled. Or maybe the fact that he hadn’t had much of an appetite lately, what with his friends still being MIA.

“Keep feeding me like this, ba-buddy, and I’ll not only fill out, I’ll be bulging out of all my clothes.” And was it just him or did everything that came out of his mouth sound… suggestive?

“Uh, toast. Yeah.” He latched on to the earlier question like a barnacle, poured his juice and somehow ended up at the table, staring at the plate full of food Spike had made.

Blue eyes closed and Spike made himself hold back his sigh. He’d hoped… well, he’d hoped that pretending would work, but Xander was still uncomfortable, which only left the truth. But later.

“Eat,” he ordered, grabbing his mug of blood from the counter on his way out.

Xander’s sigh, on the other hand, was entirely audible. Still, the bacon was perfectly crisp and the eggs had that little edge of golden brown, and even the toast had been burnt to the right degree, and… “Since he went to all the trouble,” he muttered before getting down to it and cleaning the plate nearly spotless, all the while pretending that a part of him wasn’t practically bouncing at the idea that maybe—just maybe—he hadn’t screwed things up too badly.


~*~*~*~*~


If nothing else, Spike figured he should be glad things weren’t any worse. He and Xander weren’t quite back to the level of ease they’d shared before the kissing incident four days earlier, but they were getting there. Unfortunately, that Michael Thomas was due to pay his visit the following afternoon and there was no way his bloke was going to be willing to prove their ‘togetherness’ by then, and… if he were being honest, Spike wasn’t sure he wanted him to.

Bad enough that he was still sleeping on the couch, but kissing Xander now—when everything was so bloody wrecked—would be like a sodding nail through his heart.

He was barely managing to restrain the demon as it was. Add that sort of temptation, however necessary it might be, and… he didn’t know that he’d have the strength.

“Bloody hell,” he growled, “I’ve lost it completely.” And maybe he had. He hadn’t had any ‘episodes’ at all since Xander and Dawn had arrived; not even one. So maybe the insanity had chosen a new direction, and maybe that was why he was so…

No. He couldn’t even try to convince himself that it was the craziness making him want the human bloke so much, because it wasn’t. It was the boy himself and the steady, true heart he knew resided within that so-warm flesh.

He’d come to know that heart in their e-mails, after all, and… yeah, that was when it had started, he knew, so… as nuts as it sounded, Xander had somehow touched him and he couldn’t manage to make himself let that go. Not when he’d seen how faithful and devoted the boy could be with those he loved. Hell, even when he’d left his demon-chit at the altar, he’d still cared for her and pined after her, and…

Was that it, then? Was that the bloke’s problem? Was he waiting for her, even now, after well over a month with no word?

It didn’t seem like something Xander would do, not with the way he’d talked in those early letters. Sure, he’d sounded… ‘wistful’, the soul supplied… wistful about his and Anya’s past, but there’d been nothing of ‘I want her back, I love her so much I’ll wait forever for her forgiveness’ in them.

Whatever it was, he realized, flipping channels aimlessly, it scared the boy. Scared him so much that he’d nearly been crying—and hadn’t that made Spike feel just wonderful once he’d realized it the day after?

“Bloody hell… if he was a chit, even for an hour, I’d have the whole soddin’ story from him just by askin’ him ta pass the salt,” he muttered snarkily, “but we’re blokes. And blokes don’t talk about their bloody feelin’s.” Which was exactly why he’d decided against bringing the subject up.

Hell, Xander had gotten all… squirmy… when Dawn had asked innocently enough why Spike was on the pull-out.

Still, there was only so long that they could go on as they were, and he knew it, even if Xander didn’t. It would probably be better to get the whole thing sorted before one or the other of them lost whatever balance they had and just… did something they would both regret.

“Right, then,” he told himself sternly, “That Thomas bloke leaves tomorrow and me and my boy are goin’ ta have us a little chat.” And let the proverbial chips fall where they may.


~*~*~*~*~


“So, luv,” the vampire said softly, using the endearment for the first time since… that night, “how ‘bout I get Mikey here some coffee, yah, and then we can get down to it?”

He tried to ignore the tiny thrill even as he stood and gave the vampire a smile. “I’ll get it… babe. Just… can you tell us more about that guy?” Xander looked at the CPS agent. “The one you recommended for Dawn? I… we think maybe you’re right but it’s hard for us to go check him out, what with Will having that sunlight problem, so…” And with all the stuff that had been going on, he’d pretty much forgotten about it until he’d seen the man in their doorway a few minutes earlier.

Spike chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Pet. You’re babblin’. Get the coffee and I’m sure Mikey will tell us whatever we need ta know, yah?” He shook his head as Xander practically flew to the kitchen. “Sorry, mate. He gets nervous, y’know? Besides which,” he added, lowering his voice, “Think he’s considerin’ seein’ the bloke himself but he doesn’t want you thinkin’ he’s losin’ it, if you see what I mean.”

Michael nodded slowly, that little bit of information clearing up the different vibe he was getting from the couple this visit. The taller man—Xander—had seemed a bit wound up ever since he’d gotten there. He was glad it was something so simple, though, because Dawn seemed to be thriving under the couple’s care… and that brought up the next subject they needed to talk about.

“I’ll be happy to tell you both all about him. He’s very good. And your partner is dealing with an incredibly traumatic experience. Wanting some help with making sense of it doesn’t make him crazy. In fact, it makes him smarter than most people. But first… we really should talk about Dawn’s test scores. They’re… well, unusual.”

Spike frowned and glanced towards Dawn’s bedroom before reminding himself that the girl was down visiting with Kent again. He nodded slowly. “Right. We’ll wait for Xan, then.”


~*~*~*~*~


Coffee, coffee, coffee… he could do coffee. But that wasn’t why he’d offered. He’d just needed to have a minute alone to steel himself to what he’d decided to do.

The last five days had been… strange. Bad, almost.

And the nights had been even worse.

He missed… God, he missed Spike!

He missed knowing he was there beside him, missed the cool form against his own, missed not sweating himself damp, missed… everything, but especially the way the vampire’s very presence seemed to hold off the dreams, and…

“I need him,” he told himself again, for possibly the five hundredth time that day alone.

The thought was frightening… but also liberating, in a way. That one short phrase, three simple words, cut through layer upon layer of denial and left him… he didn’t know where, but it was a place that required him to be honest with the blond, and…

He had no idea of what Spike would say. Hell, the vampire might tell him to leave, but even if he did… it would be better than this mess. Better than this… unsettled feeling.

He’d gone round and round on the not-gay—gay—not-gay wheel, spinning in circles and making himself dizzy, but it all came down to those three words, that one phrase. He needed Spike.

The problem was, while he knew that in his head and in his heart, he wasn’t sure whether he could give the blond what he needed… what he wanted. Or what he had wanted, because God knew if he still did.

And yet… it was one thing to tell himself that he could offer whatever was necessary, but… when he really thought about it, about what was involved and what it entailed, he passed right through fear and into terror.

And Spike… Spike had seen the scars and he’d want to know about them and Xander didn’t think he could tell him, had never told anyone, not even Willow, not even when he’d finally gone back to school that year after being out for two weeks with ‘chicken pox’, and…

But he needed. He needed Spike. Spike was safety and comfort and strong arms and friendship and so many other things that Xander couldn’t even name, and it had taken him all this time to realize it.

He didn’t know—couldn’t know—if it was too late. The vampire seemed to be just fine with the way things were. But he wasn’t, and…

And he’d been getting coffee for ten minutes, according to the clock, and that was just… stupid.

He hurriedly assembled a tray, filled mugs, added cream and sugar containers, then as an afterthought that would hopefully explain the wait, dumped some cookies on a plate.

“Sorry,” he said sheepishly as he returned to the couch and set the tray on the table before it, “Had some problems with the machine.”

Spike arched a brow at that but shrugged and gave his bloke a smile. “Been known ta happen, mate. Mikey, here, was about ta tell us ‘bout the Bit’s tests. Somethin’ unusual, he said.”

And just like that, Michael Thomas found himself the subject of two very intense stares and wondering why he felt like he should be shivering. “I… I know I asked you this before, but humor me, okay? What kind of student was Dawn when she was in Sunnydale? I know she was a sophomore, but…”

Xander shrugged, still staring at the man. “She wasn’t bad. There was… well, she had a few problems after Joyce died.”

“Joyce was her Mum,” Spike added, just in case the bloke had forgotten, “and a classier lady you’ll never meet. A bloody extraordinary woman, she was. Always with a kind word and a ready ear. Always treated me like a man, no matter that she knew I was a va… very gay bloke.” His lips twisted at the terrible save, but it had been the only one open to him that would keep his bloke from having a fit.

Xander nodded, his lips twitching into a sad little smile. “We told you about the problems with your counterparts back home after, but… once everything got straightened out, Dawn’s grades went back up. Nothing stellar, but pretty good. Why? Did she… she doesn’t do well on standardized tests…”

The blond frowned deeply. “And we maybe haven’t been as strict about the studyin’ while she’s been gettin’ settled… ‘s not her fault, yah? Can she take ‘em again? Extenuatin’ circumstances an’ whatnot?”

Michael blinked then shook his head. “No… no, you misunderstand. I was asking because… Look, I don’t know what rated as ‘pretty good’ in Sunnydale, but… Dawn tested out of almost every high school level test she took, other than Chemistry and History. But English, Math, everything else? She’s… well.” He shook his head again, looking a little bit baffled. “Even with all that’s happened in the last couple of months, she’s… well, to put it bluntly, she’s exceedingly bright.”

And in that moment, hearing that Dawn had done well and seeing from the look on the agent’s face that he wouldn’t be taking Dawn anywhere, Xander did the one thing he hadn’t even considered doing until later that day, if then.

He turned on the couch and gave Spike a huge grin, then dragged the vampire closer and kissed him hard.

It was a short kiss and almost chaste, considering their last one, but it left him nearly vibrating as he forced himself to release the older man.

“I… Dawn,” he said by way of explanation, dazed by the simple touch.

“Y-yah,” Spike said, blinking just once before remembering the man in the chair nearby. “Guess Nibblet’s goin’ ta do just fine in school, then. Now, ‘bout that Doctor, mate…”

He barely listened, and he had a feeling Xander wasn’t taking the information in any better than he was. Then again, they could look the bloke up on the ‘net later.

Much later, Spike reminded himself, because as soon as the prat from the City was gone, he and his bloke were definitely going to have that bloody chat. But first…

“I’ll walk you out, mate,” he told the CPS agent, smirking slightly when it earned him a small shiver from the bloke in question.


~*~*~*~*~


Michael Thomas was nearly vibrating as he walked down the hallway accompanied by the blond component of the couple he’d come to admire for their steadfast devotion to the young girl in their care. Finally, though, he had to look at the male.

“So, uh… what’s this all about, Will…?” he bit his lip, hoping against hope that it wasn’t what he thought it was. He’d seen the blond’s looks and glances, after all, and…

Spike arched one brow then shrugged. “Just curious, mate. Wonderin’ what you are.”

Michael blinked and shuddered slightly. “I… I don’t know wh-what you mean.”

The vampire chuckled quietly before slamming the other man against the wall beside the elevator and he laughed as he saw the small spikes appear then recede.

“Know you’re not human,” he murmured, looking dispassionately into the bloke’s eyes. “Not fully, anyway. Can smell it, mate, even without the show and tell. Just wonderin’ what you’re up ta, aren’t I?”

‘Should have taken that shower,’ Michael told himself disgustedly. ‘Running late or not, I should have just…’

“N-nothing!” He finally whimpered, his eyes wide as he saw gold flash through the vampire’s. “I… it was my grandfather, and… look, I’m just doing my job and Dawn seems to care about you, and…”

He forced himself to straighten and meet those golden eyes straight on, trying not to quiver any more than he’d already done. “And they’re human but you haven’t killed them and neither of them is marked. So maybe I’m not the only one with some explaining to do.”

Spike groaned, then snorted. “Long story short… Military. Chip. Started carin’. Fancied myself in love with a chit. Got a soul. Was wrong about the bein’ in love.” And he only knew that because of how he felt for Xander, but he’d be damned if he’d tell the CPS prat before he told the object of his affections.

“Left when I proved ta be a danger ta them. Came here. Xan and the Bit came ta stay after Sunnyhell went ta… Hell. There you have it.”

He glared, finally releasing the other bloke. “That explain it, mate?”

Michael blinked and nodded slowly. “Uh… I’ll check back next month?” And maybe by then he’d have found out exactly who the vampire was because all his earlier attempts had gotten him exactly nothing.

“So what are you,” Spike said again. If the bloke was anything that could hurt either of his humans, he needed to know.

“Brachen demon,” the CPS agent admitted with a sigh, “But like I said, it was my grandfather. I’m only a little…”

Spike snorted. “Trust me, bloke… according to the U.S. Government, that’s enough. Now go on about your business, yah? Got plans, I do.”

It was the yearning look the vampire cast back towards his apartment that made Michael relax. “I… I do too.”





Part Eighteen

Spike stalked straight past the slightly trembling human still standing in the living room without sparing him as much as a glance.

He moved to the closer end table and picked up the phone, dialing quickly and tapping one foot impatiently until the line was answered.

“Kent. Yah, it’s Will. Look, mate, think you can keep the Bit for a while longer? Me and Xan need ta… talk.” He chuckled softly at the expressed ‘about time’ the other man nearly shouted, then nodded, though there was no way Kent could see him.

“No, everythin’ went fine with the bloke… says our girl’s bloody brilliant, but we knew that already, yah?” He rolled his eyes. “Look, mate. Tell you all about it, I will. Later.”

He smirked at the sudden silence and the following ‘oh’.

“Right, then. I’ll call you, mate. And thanks.”

Xander was nearly vibrating with nervousness and anxiety as he watched Spike hang up the phone. Finally, he swallowed hard and turned his eyes away, focusing on the view from the east-facing window.

“Look, I…” he began, then shook his head and swallowed again, trying to clear the lump in his throat. “I’m sorry, Spike. I… I know you don’t w-want that anymore, and I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t mean… well, I did mean, but you don’t have to think it means… well, anything, and I won’t d-do it again since it obviously pissed you off, and I don’t even know if I can… anything, so let’s just forget it, okay? I mean, I shouldn’t have… done that and I know it and I’ll just…”

It was the cool hand suddenly cupping his cheek and gently forcing him to meet baffled blue eyes that had his voice fading out.

“What are you on about, luv?” the vampire murmured, his head cocking slightly as he stared into those hot, worried, scared, hopeful eyes. “Shouldn’t have done what?”

He waited a moment, almost laughing as he watched his bloke’s broad red mouth open and close around words that never emerged. “Kissed me, Xander?” he offered, voice still soft and smooth, “Or called me babe? Or sat so close I could feel your heat, smell the thick, rich scent of you, hear your heart racin’, blood pumpin’? Is that what you’re sayin’ you shouldn’t have done, luv?”

Xander moaned softly, unable to look away. “I… I just…”

Spike did chuckle this time, low and deep. “Not acceptin’ that, Xan. Think you should have done all of that days ago, don’t I?” He hand pressed just a bit harder to the subtle curve of his boy’s cheek and he nearly purred when that flushed flesh met the pressure with its own. “Bloody hell, Xan… know you’re scared, I do. All this is bloody well new for you. New for me too, yah?”

His other hand rose slightly, finally coming to rest on his human’s hip lightly enough that the bloke probably didn’t even feel it. “Been mostly about the chits, haven’t I? But luv… there’s somethin’ here. With you and me. Think it could be somethin’… amazin’ if we give it a chance.”

And he’d told himself exactly what Spike was telling him, Xander knew. Whatever Spike and Angel—Angelus—had gotten up to in the early days, the vampire had always involved himself with women, otherwise. And if Spike could accept that they were both male while still admitting that something was going on between them, then didn’t he owe it to Spike—and to himself—to find out what it was?

Xander closed his eyes, trying to push down the rising swell of panic. He couldn’t be, wouldn’t be… weak, a sissy-boy, nothing but a fucking faggot, gonna show you what being a faggot is, you sorry little shit… gay. Except it was looking more and more like maybe he was, and…

“I d-don’t know how to… do this, S-spike,” he whispered. “I… God, I’m so… fuck. I’m such a girl but I’m just fucking terrified! I… my Dad… I can’t be…”

Bloody fucking Tony Harris and his sodding sick notions of manhood! “He… what, luv?” Spike said roughly, instead of growling the way both soul and demon wanted to, “Told you that carin’ for a bloke would make you less of a man? That wantin’ comfort and love was wrong?” He frowned, meeting surprised brown eyes when they finally opened again.

“Doesn’t mean any of that, you know,” he whispered, leaning closer. His fingers on his bloke’s warm hip finally tightened just a bit, then moved in small, simple circles on cotton. “Means you’re human, Xander. Nothin’ wrong with needin’, with wantin’ ta feel like you belong somewhere. And you do, Xan. You do, luv.” Spike nodded, letting the hand on his boy’s cheek slide back a little, fingers slipping into silken strands of sable hair. “Belong right here, pet. With me. And so does the Bit, but not in the same way for either of us, yah?”

He found himself laughing, though he didn’t let the automatic motions of his body put any more space between him and Spike’s cooler form. “God, I hope in different ways, Spike, because you know I love Dawn, but not like…” And that was when he felt nauseous. He’d just said… and to Spike, and… “Oh… fuck. I didn’t mean, I mean I… fuck!”

There was only one thing Spike could do in response to the almost-declaration. Only one possible reaction he could have that would hopefully not send the already skittish man running.

He flexed his fingers softly on hip and in hair and nodded, then pulled the bloke closer, just… resting against him and smiling on the inside.

“Shhhh… ‘s alright, luv,” he murmured, pitching his voice to a deliberately soothing timbre. “Not sorry ta hear it, am I? Just… glad I’m not the only one, yah?”

Xander found himself sobbing quietly, his arms wrapping hard around Spike’s smaller waist as his head dropped to take up residence in the crook of the vampire’s neck. “But… wrong, it’s wrong, so wrong… can’t be good or right or… I don’t…”

It was only his enhanced hearing that allowed him to make out the words his bloke was whispering so shakily against his skin, and while he frowned at the despondent tone, he found himself holding the boy tightly and rocking. “Hush… hush, pet… goin’ ta be fine, luv… told you, Xander. Know you’re scared, yah…? Not pushin’ you, baby. Never pushin’ you…”


~*~*~*~*~


How they’d wound up on the couch, Xander would never know.

More to the point, Xander didn’t care. Mostly because if he bothered to think about it much, he’d probably be completely humiliated by the way he’d been acting.

As it was though, he felt his deep, hard shudders slowing, then stopping, and when he finally lifted his head to apologize to Spike, the vampire simply shook his head and smiled.

“Spike, I…” he tried anyway.

“Hush,” the blond purred, hands shifting as he brushed his lips lightly over the sorrow-swollen heat of his bloke’s red mouth.

It wasn’t like their first kiss, Xander realized. It wasn’t as… desperate or heated. In fact this kiss held within it a sense of that comfort Spike had mentioned earlier but also a desire that wasn’t overwhelming but built slowly… so slowly that it was almost imperceptible.

His mouth brushed back and forth over cool lips, and after a few moments he let just the tip of his tongue creep out to barely touch the crease between soft, full pink, and when that crease opened and his tongue was met with another that moved just as carefully, he almost sobbed again.

Bloody hell… he’d known the bloke could kiss. Hell, his Xan could kiss so sodding well that the first time had completely derailed his brain. This time, though… oh, this time there was something so… sweet and so very tentative about it that Spike found himself shivering as their tongues barely touched. Yeah, Xander was scared. Hell, he could taste it, and while the demon inside him was reveling in the flavor, it was also distressed… just as much as the soul was.

“Luv,” he whispered, forcing himself to put a good half an inch between their mouths, “need ta ask you somethin’…”

Xander groaned and took a deep breath, holding it as he tried to find some sort of internal balance. “Y-yeah?” he finally managed to say when he’d failed completely, “Wh… what, Spike?”

The vampire groaned too, although in his case it was because of the way his bloke was biting that full, red bottom lip. He closed his eyes, deliberately thinking of anything—everything—other than biting that lip himself.

“Tell me what you’re so afraid of, pet,” he sighed helplessly. “What’s got you wound so bloody tight?”


~*~*~*~*~


It had taken a good ten minutes for Spike to convince him that he wasn’t angry, regardless of the gentle tone the blond had used. But now… well, now Xander knew Spike really just wanted to know, and the fact that the vampire hadn’t yelled or tried to take advantage made him that much more determined to answer the original question as much as he could.

“I… I don’t…” Xander sighed and shook his head before meeting cornflower blue eyes sheepishly. “I… know you want me,” he finally mumbled. “I just… I don’t know if I can… you want things I…” He frowned.

The blond blinked, then blinked again. He barely managed to keep himself from bursting into laughter, but he somehow did.

“You think I want ta fuck you, Xan?” He did laugh then, at the look on his bloke’s face. One arm rose, wrapping around strong shoulders and Spike shook his head, mostly at himself.

“Look, pet. Know you’ve got some sort of… issues with that. Can tell, alright? But, luv…” he smiled sheepishly. “You need ta remember, luv. Know you’re not a vampire. If you were, wouldn’t be any big soddin’ deal, yah? Toss you down, fuck you dry… and you’d love every bloody moment of it.” His arm tightened as he smelled-felt-sensed his bloke starting to panic.

“But you’re not a demon, luv… and I don’t want you ta be, either. And… got me a soul now, yah?” he went on, holding wide brown eyes with his own intense gaze. “Moved too fast that first night. Know that, I do. And Xan… Xander. Luv.” He smiled. “Lots of things two blokes can do without doin’ that. Figure you’re goin’ ta need a good long while before we get… ‘there’. And luv? You’re worth waitin’ for, got it?”

He could barely believe what he was hearing, but the so-sincere look on Spike’s face made it clear that the vampire meant it. “I… so what do we do?” he heard himself saying, though he hadn’t planned on using those words or even others that would impart the same meaning. “Wh-what do we d-do, Spike…?”

The vampire chuckled and leaned in for another soft, slow kiss, and shaky as it was, it was still the best kiss of his entire existence, supplanting the one from just a few minutes earlier. “We date, luv,” he whispered as he pulled away. “ Or as close ta it as I get, yah? And some day… when you’ve learned ta trust me and believe that I’ll never hurt you? We’ll make love, Xan. And make no bloody mistake. Won’t be a fuck, won’t be a shag. And it won’t be anythin’ either one of us will be able ta walk away from, got it?”

And God… even though the idea alone made him shake with fear, it also just… didn’t. “I… that would be… yeah,” he answered, biting his lip again. “But can we… I mean…”

A scarred brow rose at the bright blush his bloke was suddenly sporting and Spike cocked his head. “What, luv?” he demanded gently, fingertips stroking one blood-bright cheek, “Just ask, pet… doubt I could tell you no about anythin’, yah?”

Xander blushed even more and ducked his head slightly though he took care not to dislodge those cool fingers. “Can… can we still kiss while we’re going slow…?”

He took the loud laughter as well as the sudden pressure of cool, full lips against his as a yes.





Part Nineteen

As it made things easier for Dawn, they’d decided on a bit of fiction to explain her relationship with them. Anyone who asked would be told that Xander was her uncle—her late Mother’s very much younger brother who had taken it upon himself to raise her after Joyce’s death.

Spike was simply a very close personal friend of her Uncle Xander’s, and if any of the other kids at Dawn’s new school decided to read between the lines and realized the two men were together, well, Dawn didn’t much care. She’d tested out of most of the available classes, after all, so she wouldn’t be spending that much time with the other students anyway.

That wasn’t to say that she was anything but nervous as she repacked her school bag for the fifth time that night, frowning.

Spike chuckled from the doorway then stepped into her bedroom, taking the backpack from her with an amused gaze. “Keep that up, Bit,” he grinned, “And you’ll need a new bag halfway through the week, yah?”

He sat down on the edge of the bed, offering his arm and smiling even more when she ducked beneath it and hugged him hard. “You got nothin’ ta worry about, pet,” he reminded her softly. “Got a bloody decent wardrobe, though I don’t know how you managed it with Kent helping; you’re soddin’ gorgeous, and like that Thomas bloke said, you’re smart as a bloody whip. You’re goin’ ta do great, yah?”

Dawn sighed and snuggled closer. “I guess. It’s just so… different, y’know? It’s… well, it’s not Sunnydale. And what do I say when people ask me about home, Spike? I can’t…” she sighed again, closing her eyes, “I don’t think I can talk about it yet. Not with… strangers. What if… what if they make fun of me?”

The vampire growled low and deep. “They do, Niblet, you come right back here and tell your ‘Uncle Spike’, yah? Prats’ll be too soddin’ busy explainin’ why they’ve started wettin’ the bed again ta bother you.”

The girl giggled a bit, imagining her vampire protector finding any mean classmates and scaring them… possibly from outside their windows late at night. “Sorry. I guess I’m kinda scared. But I’ll just stay scared if I don’t face it head on, right?”

She nodded sharply to herself and straightened, leaving the blond’s sheltering embrace. “That’s what Doctor Krenst’c says anyway, so… I should give it a try?”

Blue eyes smiled at the hopeful expression and Spike nodded back at her. “That’s right, pet. And remember. If you don’t like it, you can always study here, yah? No soddin’ blokes with one thing on their minds here, either.” He looked thoughtful, then grinned. “That’s it, Niblet! Home schoolin’!”

The teenager groaned and shook her head again, more violently this time. “No. Nuh-uh, not a chance, and when hell freezes over, Spike!” She grinned suddenly, this time with a decidedly wicked cast. “And you’re wrong about there not being guys right here who are thinking about nothing but sex. They’re just you and Xander and you’re thinking it about each other!”

The vampire pouted playfully, glad to see that Dawn’s nerves had settled a bit. “Yah, well. We’re allowed. Blokes, aren’t we? And… and over eighteen.”

Dawn snorted. “A whole lot over in your case. You’re like… a hundred and seven years older than Xander, and okay, I just gave myself an ewwww moment,” she teased.

Spike smirked. “Yah, well. Just means I have more experience findin’ the good ones, don’t it? And Xan…” He purred slightly, then blinked. “And I’m not havin’ this conversation with you. Not ‘age appropriate’, as the git from the City would say.”

He ignored the girl’s pout and glanced at the clock beside Dawn’s bed. “Time for you ta get settled down, pet. Have ta be up early, don’t you?”

The girl grumbled but got up and cleared the rest of the bed, pushing papers and documents into one sloppy pile. “Yeah…” she gave Spike a slightly sheepish glance then looked away. “And Spike… thanks. For taking me in… everything. I… just thanks, okay?”

He got up just as quickly and pulled the girl into a hard hug. “Bit… would be best if big sis were here ta look after you. Know that, I do. But ‘til she makes it, pet—and even after, never doubt that—you’re welcome here. Like my own li’l sis, you are.” He cursed the fact that he’d eaten right before coming into the room as he felt the borrowed blood rise in his cheeks. “Love you, Dawn. Family, yah?”

She’d suspected as much, but hearing the words had small tears gathering at the corners of her eyes; especially because she was pretty sure Buffy wouldn’t be coming for her. It had been ages, and… but she knew Spike was still hoping, so she didn’t say anything to make him question that. “Yeah,” she agreed in a shaky whisper, “family. I love you too, Spike. You and Xander. You’re the best… sexually-ambiguous-yet-totally-gay Uncles a girl could ever have.” She sniggered and darted away from the amused swat, then started getting ready for bed.

Spike grinned and closed the door behind him as he left the room. It was closing on eleven PM, and while that was definitely sleeping-time for his humans, it was the middle of the bloody day for him, so… more blood, a movie, maybe tweak his latest batch of pictures, and then he’d curl up on the couch for his own rest.

Not that it would be particularly restful, of course. Not when he knew Xander was just a room away, all warm and snuggly and hugging the spare pillow tightly. And he did know. He’d watched the bloke from the doorway more than once, after all, but… much as he wanted to be that pillow, he couldn’t. Not until the boy asked.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander was leaning back against the headboard, eyes trained on the magazine in his hands though he wasn’t actually reading it. Instead, he was waiting for a certain blond to realize that the blanket and pillow weren’t under the table in the living room anymore. It shouldn’t be long, he figured, because he could just barely hear the movie ending and the swell of music that accompanied the closing credits.

Even so, he jumped a bit when one cool hand suddenly touched his arm. “Jeez, Spike!” he yelped, “You trying to give me a heart attack?”

Spike smirked and shook his head, then leaned down to press a slow, soft kiss to his bloke’s parted lips. “Hardly, pet,” he answered, “not my fault you were so caught up in…” He peered over the magazine, a tiny pleased smile taking up residence on his face when he saw that it was open to the latest article to use his pictures.

The fact that Spike was speechless was enough to have Xander wondering if there was another apocalypse looming, but the look on the vampire’s face derailed the thought and he found himself sitting up straighter to pull the blond down onto the bed beside him, sneaking one more small, simple kiss in while he had the chance.

“So what’s up?” he questioned, biting his lip a little as he wondered whether Spike was going to be angry.

It hadn’t occurred to him when he’d taken the things earlier, but… maybe Spike was still sleeping on the pull-out because he wanted to. It was starting to get warmer out, after all, though it was still a good bit on the chilly side, but maybe the fact that Xander got so warm at night was putting the vampire off, or maybe Spike just liked the distance since they were together, but not completely, and things had been moving so slowly, and as much as Xander appreciated that, he also wanted… more.

One brow rose and Spike wondered—not for the first time—what had his bloke’s mind just whirring away, because it was whirring; he could tell.

“Curious, luv,” he said after a moment. “Can’t seem ta find my linens and such. Wondered if you might have moved them or somethin’.”

He felt himself blushing bright red, even as he looked down, his brow furrowing. “I… I mean…” Xander sighed. “This was so much easier in my head. I… I don’t think I can…”

Spike frowned, smelling the embarrassment flowing from his bloke in waves. His hand moved slowly up and down that so-warm arm until a few strokes later when he laughed and stood up. “Come on, pet. Have an idea, I do.”

To say that he was confused at being dragged from bed without even an explanation other than ‘have an idea’ would have been understating things, but as it was Spike doing the dragging, Xander wasn’t going to complain. Not until the blond pulled him into the living room and sat him down in front of the computer. “Huh?”

A tight hug and short kiss later, Spike released the boy and stepped back. “Write it, luv,” he told his bloke. “Write it ta me. Like we used ta do when you were… before you were here, yah?” He frowned at the continued bafflement and clarified.

“Seem ta be havin’ a hard time talkin’, right? And not just you, pet. Me too. But we were less… more… somethin’,” he shrugged, “when we were writin’, Xan. So I’m goin’ ta take a shower, and you… write ta me, luv. And when I get out, I’ll come here and read it.”

The last thing Xander was ever going to do was tell Spike just how stupid of an idea he thought that was.

For one thing, it would probably make Spike pout at him and he hated that. It always made him feel like he’d kicked a puppy—and that was something else he’d never tell the blond.

For another thing… well, the living room was bigger and when Spike came back, he wouldn’t be able to smell Xander’s excitement at picturing him in the shower quite as clearly as he would in their bedroom, so maybe it wasn’t such a stupid idea after all.

“O-okay,” he managed to say, forcing himself to look at the screen as he logged in to his mail for the first time in days.

The vampire grinned hopefully and kissed his boy’s cheek just once before leaving him be.



From: TheXanMan
To: NotBroodingJustThinking
Subject: Linens

Spike,

You asked about your stuff and I guess I didn’t answer right, or at all, because…

Fuck. I wasn’t gonna say this, but this is stupid! You’re in the shower and I’m a room away writing you e-mail?

Hey, are you on some kind of vampire crack I need to know about?

Shit, Spike. This feels… strange. It does. I mean, I should be able to talk to you, right? But I don’t know how. Not in person.

Then again, that’s probably why you want me to write, just like you said.

Okay. Okay. I know. Stop stalling, right?

Okay. Here goes… nothing. Everything. Something.

I took your stuff, Spike. But I’m guessing you know that. What you want to know is ‘why’ and I’m not sure of how to explain it but I’m gonna try, okay?

See, I know we’ve been doing… something. We’ve been getting closer, I guess. Slowly. So fucking slowly it’s driving me nuts, Spike.

I know I said I was scared and I was, I am! I still don’t think I can give you everything you want—everything you deserve. Hell, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to, but I think you know that.

But the kissing… fuck, I love the kissing, babe. I love feeling you pressed against me, even though we’re almost always fully clothed. And I love the way you moan, Spike. Right into my mouth. I eat it up. Swallow it. And it’s like that’s a part of you that’s just mine. Your moans.

Shit. I’m hard, Spike. Just thinking about the way your lips feel against mine, thinking about the sounds you make.

And it’s not fair!

It’s not fair that I can feel so… fuck, so needy… just from kissing you, from being kissed by you! It’s not fair that even though I’m scared, so fucking scared of the pain and the blood and the screaming and the laughing, I… fuck, I still want you like that!

And Jesus-fuck, Spike, it’s not fair that I’m doing this to you. Making you think things are gonna change when I’m not sure they are.

I want you.

I’m just not sure I’ll ever be able to have you.

And I know you keep saying that there are all kinds of things we can do other than the naked-gay-butt-sex, but I don’t know what they are and you’re not telling me and I’m just so…

God, Spike. I’m so tired.

Uh, not like ‘tired of you’ or even ‘tired of this’. I’m just so fucking tired!

I guess I got used to sleeping with you because the last couple weeks have been… hard. I never seem to really sleep, or not all the way. It’s like there’s something missing and I think… I think maybe it’s you.

So I stole your ‘linens’—and isn’t that a fancy-schmantsy way of saying blanket and pillow?—and I guess I was hoping you’d just come to bed, but you didn’t, you had to ask what was going on, and now here I am writing to you when you’re maybe fifteen feet away, and I feel like a moron!

It’s like three AM and I have to be up at seven to get dressed and take Dawny to school. Have to make sure she’s registered right and everything and sign whatever we didn’t sign already because you just know there’s something; there always is.

But instead of sleeping tonight, I’ve been just sitting awake and waiting for you… waiting for you to come and crawl into bed like you used to. Waiting to feel the mattress dip because you’re getting under the covers. Waiting to feel your arms wrapping around me; to feel your chest against my back.

I know.

Maybe that does make me a tease, but I can’t help wanting that… comfort.

Shit. I must be a complete idiot for writing all this. I should have just written ‘come to bed’ and left it at that, right?

I…

Fuck.


It was the fact that he truly was so tired that had Xander clicking ‘send’ rather than ‘back’.

He groaned when he realized, then groaned again and sent another e-mail.



From: TheXanMan
To: NotBroodingJustThinking
Subject: IGNORE LAST E-MAIL!!!

Spike.

I took your linens.

Come to bed.

Please.

I miss you.

Xander


That said, he logged out of his mail program and got up, nearly toppling over when he stretched; he was that tired now that he’d mentioned it even to himself.

He stumbled into the bedroom and fell onto the mattress, somehow finding the energy to drag the sheets around him as he slipped into the half-dozing state that had become far too familiar in the last little while.


~*~*~*~*~


His beautiful boy seemed to be asleep when he left the bathroom after a long, hot shower that still wasn’t anywhere near as blissful as Xander’s heat against his skin.

He almost decided to ignore whatever the bloke had written in favour of joining him in the big bed, but… he’d given his word, and while he might think Xander had taken his things out of some desire for his company, he couldn’t be sure. Not until he read.

“Ignore last e-mail,” he said with a snort. “Yah. As if, like the Bit would say.”

He opened the first mail, something inside him clenching and releasing at the disturbed but still nearly desperate words. “Fuck, pet…” he sighed, then moved on to the next e-mail, smiling slightly.

Even as he turned off the computer and stood, moving towards the bedroom, he wished…

“Wish I knew what has you so bloody scared, luv,” he murmured, gazing for a good minute at the tanned skin swathed in flannel.

“Wish I could help.”

He crept slowly into the bed, careful not to wake the sleeping human, and when he’d finally settled on his back in his long-disused spot and said human immediately rolled closer, the longish brown hair spreading out over his own pale skin, Spike purred.

His arm slid slowly under broad shoulders, his eyes closing as he was more or less covered by Xander’s shifting form, and he was so immediately taken with the sensation that he never heard—even with his vampiric hearing—the small, nearly silent voice that whispered “done”.

The vampire wasn’t actually the one she was there for, but his wish… well, it would help her true client, and that was what really mattered. Xander deserved some happiness, after all, and she’d be damned if she wasn’t going to do everything she could to help him get it.





Part Twenty

WARNING: This part contains semi-graphic descriptions of child abuse of many kinds. PLEASE read at your own risk!!! And for those who don't want to read it, just know it's part of Xander's whole fear thing.

Spike woke with a gasp, eyes wide and golden as he glared into each corner of the dark room before finally shifting to the glowing red numbers on the digital clock.

4:30 AM and that meant he’d only been sleeping for half an hour, but it had felt like… centuries, the dream—nightmare—had been so all-encompassing.

The only problem was that he was fairly sure it wasn’t his nightmare. The man who featured in it hadn’t even remotely resembled the father he’d known as a human child, and his own parent had certainly never done anything even remotely like what he’d experienced.

He growled softly, giving the room one more suspicious gaze before pulling his so-warm human closer, practically draping the bloke over his chest.

It was only then, as he held Xander across him, that he felt the small shivers racing through his form; heard the nearly silent whimpers that were suddenly, disturbingly familiar. He’d heard those same whimpers in his dream, though the voice had been higher-pitched and a good bit louder.

“Bloody hell, luv,” he whispered, hands slowly sliding up and down Xander’s long, tense spine, “tell me I’m imaginin’ things… tell me you’re not… rememberin’ what I just…”

And that was when he had a crystal clear recollection of less than an hour earlier and his own words. He hadn’t sensed any presence other than his humans at the time, but that didn’t mean it was impossible. Hell, if it came to that, he was impossible, according to most of the humans in the world.

So maybe… maybe he knew what had his bloke so frightened now. And if his second wish had been answered as well, then… maybe he really could help.

That thought was the only thing that made him close his eyes again. It had been horrifying to experience the nightmare he’d had, but he’d do it again if it let him help his bloke heal.


~*~*~*~*~


Ten year old Xander stared up at his father and frowned. “He’s not ugly!” He insisted, echoing the words Willow had said on the playground earlier that day. “Jesse’s cute! Maybe not like the guys from Bon Jovi, but he’s still gonna be really good looking when he gets…”

The fist across his cheek shut him up, because even at ten, Xander knew better than to cry. Crying only made Dad hit harder.

“That how it is, you little shit? You and that ugly fucking boy ‘special friends’?” Dad demanded, his other fist plowing hard into young Xander’s stomach, “Giving it up for him, are you? Little fucking faggot… little shithead waste of space!”

Young Xander didn’t even have time to blink before fingers thick as sausages closed on his shoulder, Dad’s free hand gripping hard at his hair and lifting him before throwing him hard against the wall.

He slid to the floor, gasping as black spots swam through his vision.

The gasps became retching when one steel-toed boot slammed roughly into his stomach.

“Stupid little faggot… fucking faggot! Never gonna be a real man, are you, Alexander?” Dad’s voice laughed cruelly, bitterly. “Should have known there was a reason your whore of a mother named you for a fucking queer! But now I do know and I’ll be damned if I let any son of mine be a fucking pillow-biter!”

The boy was still gasping and retching, twisting to vomit on the wood floor instead of the rug Mom had gotten on sale at K-mart, but even then it was too expensive, his Dad had shouted.

He lost the fight when that boot kicked him again, this time between his legs, and he finally screamed as well as he could around the bile mixed with the meatless hamburger helper he’d had for dinner.

Dad laughed again, louder and more angrily this time, and young Xander had no idea of when exactly he’d been pulled to his feet and shoved face first over the back of the couch.

He also had no clue as to when his father had dragged the jeans from his shaking, whimpering form, although it was likely—logically—somewhere between the two.

All he knew was that Dad had kicked him there and his head was swimming, and then… then he heard the sound of Dad’s feet moving down the hall and he heard the closet door, and he almost believed it was over, but then…

Then those loud, stomping footsteps were coming back and there was the somehow ominous sound of a heavy zipper being released, and…

“You’re nothing Alexander. Nothing but a fucking queer. Know what that means, you worthless fucker? You’re weak, a sissy-boy, nothing but a fucking faggot, gonna show you what being a faggot is, you sorry little shit!”

And that was the moment when young Xander found out what pain truly was.

Screams didn’t help; in fact they seemed to make Dad even more determined to teach him… whatever he thought he was teaching. But Xander didn’t know what that was, couldn’t even think that there was a lesson. All he could do was cry and wail, even while trying to get away, curl into a ball, protect his body the only way he knew how, but Dad wasn’t letting him, wouldn’t let him go; he just kept ramming that hard, thick thing into him and laughing, laughing, laughing while young Xander bled and begged until his young voice was nothing but a hoarse squeak.


Spike watched, snarling. He’d tried to stop the man, tried to rip his throat out, tear his still beating heart from his chest, but he couldn’t touch him. He could only watch and shake violently at being so helpless.

“Xander…” he moaned, one hand stretching out to the boy he now knew was his bloke’s younger self, “Xander… bloody hell, luv… so sorry, so bloody fuckin’ sorry… see why you’re scared, luv. See why you’re so bloody hesitant.”

He swallowed hard, forcing the gathered moisture in his eyes to remain there rather than spilling down his cheeks.

“Knew you were brave, Xan… amazed you can even think ‘bout kissin’ me, much less wantin’ more, luv…” and that was true enough. If he’d gone through anything as a human that was even close to what his boy had experienced, he wouldn’t have been able to even consider touching another male.

Even his demon was snarling, although it was also impressed by Anthony Harris’s very… original… use for the butt-end of the pool cue, though not on their boy. Never on their boy.

And then the dream-memory skipped a bit, though Spike assumed it did so because the boy had likely passed out for a little while. Not long enough, but at least he’d had some short respite.

”Yeah, I knew you were weak, you little shit,” Dad was muttering and Xander whimpered again, swiftly wishing he hadn’t when Dad’s voice perked up. “Good. Maybe you’re not as much of a pussy as I thought.”

He could still feel the hard, thick something inside him. He knew he was still bleeding and he was definitely still hurting. Heck, young Xander thought hazily that he’d probably hurt forever from this, and all because he’d said Jesse was cute…?

“D-d-d-d…” he tried to beg, only to be stopped immediately by still more gut-wrenching agony.

“D-d-d-d-d?” Dad sneered, pushing the thing into him harder, “Yeah, you’re a fucking wuss, but that’s no surprise. Should have made the whore abort you, you little fuck. But she didn’t so I guess it’s up to me to teach you right from wrong.”

The boy shrieked, his already strained voice breaking completely as Dad poured some sort of booze over his raw, bleeding ass.

“Yeah,” Dad slurred, still laughing, “Gotta teach you, boy! Won’t have a fucking queer for a son!”

The boy cringed even more, his entire body wanting nothing other than to melt, disappear, fade away… only, with his luck, he’d take the pain with him and never be free of it, but maybe that would be better, maybe that would be…

He yelped silently as the first strike fell on his back. By the sixth blow, he’d passed out again to the muttered insults and hating words that fell from Dad’s lips.


“Fuckin’ Christ, beloved,” Spike sobbed, the tears dripping freely from his eyes and down his face. “Fucker’s bloody lucky he’s dead, pet… would kill him myself, slow and hard if I could…”

He couldn’t stand looking at the frozen tableau but he also couldn’t make himself look away. His bloke—his Xander—had gone through that? And he was still so… loving? So open to… life?

It was incomprehensible to the vampire.

Even the demon was awed by the viciousness of their boy’s father. The thick end of the pool cue being used to… rape the boy was bad enough. But using the narrow end to stripe his back bloody was jus…t outside of wrong. So outside, in fact, that it took evil to a level the demon didn’t even want to consider.

That the soul was so sickened it was hiding in a corner of his mind went without saying.

He watched as Tony Harris gave the unconscious boy a truly evil smile; watched as the already overweight man stomped from the room, and even though Spike knew he couldn’t touch the boy, he moved closer, one hand slowly rising in a subconscious effort to soothe.

His brows rose almost to his hairline when he actually felt the very short brown hairs under his hand. “X-Xander…?”

The boy whimpered again, trying to shift away and Spike growled, this time at himself. He could have stopped the memory? He could have touched his boy and stopped things, could have taken him somewhere else?

Well, of course not, he told himself, fingers still brushing lightly over the buzz cut he knew would grow into silken strands of thick brown hair.

This was his boy’s memory and he couldn’t change the past. That didn’t mean he couldn’t speak to his bloke’s sleeping mind, though… or change the direction of the nightmare, since he could touch.

“Hush,” he whispered shakily, pulling the dream-form of the ten year old Xander closer. “Goin’ ta be alright, luv.”

He stroked that short hair softly then leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to the top of the boy’s head. “Here ta help you, pet. Promise…”

The whimpers became grunting gasps as Spike wrapped one hand around the protruding shaft of the pool stick and gently pulled it from the boy’s bloody anus.

“Never goin’ ta let you be hurt again, Xander… promise you, yah? Keep you safe forever, luv… just need you ta wake up, I do…”

He didn’t know the man holding him; didn’t know the cool hands that felt so… comforting. Heck, he didn’t even know what it was like to be comforted, except… he did know the man. He somehow knew the voice, knew the smoke-whiskey-vanilla scent surrounding him, and while the whiskey part of that should have had him cringing, it just didn’t, and…


~*~*~*~*~


Xander drew one deep breath and released it soundlessly as he jerked awake to find himself held tightly, just as he’d been at the unusual end of the familiar nightmare.

He inhaled again, confusion rolling through his mind when he realized that Spike’s scent was exactly the same as what he’d smelled when he’d…

Then again, he was more or less laying on top of the slightly smaller man, so maybe that made sense. And maybe—just maybe—Spike’s scent had been enough to pull him from his own personal hell.

He swallowed hard and shot one bleary glance at the clock. Almost 6 AM. He could sleep for another hour, and with any luck—now that Spike was in bed with him—he wouldn’t have to revisit that particular memory. Hell, Spike’s presence had already changed the dream.

He hadn’t lain on the floor, bloody and broken, until some time the next day… hadn’t had to pull the… that from his own body.

He hadn’t had to literally crawl up the stairs, puking bile every couple steps…

And this time… this time, he hadn’t made his way shakily down them three days later because, unbelievably, he was hungry… only to find his own blood and vomit still waiting to be cleaned up.

Yeah, he was going to keep Spike in their bed. No matter what it took. Even Anya hadn’t kept the dreams at bay… and she’d definitely never changed them.

Xander smiled slightly and wrapped his arm tighter around Spike’s cool torso and as he closed his eyes again, he pressed one soft, grateful kiss to the blond’s chest.

“Thank you,” he whispered to the sleeping man, not even noticing those blue and gold eyes opening to let a fresh batch of tears loose.




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