Becoming Known


by
Tisienne Blue



Part Twenty-One

Xander was grinning hugely when he finally walked back into the apartment, a sheaf of papers clutched in his hand. He could hardly wait to tell Spike his big news, but he supposed he’d have to. It was only 10 AM after all and the vampire would likely be sleeping until close to 6.

That didn’t stop him from tossing the papers onto the coffee table and heading for the kitchen, though. He was going to make them all a celebratory meal. He’d decided as much on the way back home… and hopefully it wouldn’t suck completely.

He went through the cupboards carefully, making a mental list of the things he wanted to pick up once he’d met Dawn after school let out that afternoon, and that done, found some bizarre ‘sport’ playing on ESPN2 as he snacked happily on the bag of corn chips he’d found during his search.

Yeah, he was gonna surprise Spike, alright. Not so much surprising of Dawn going on since she’d be with him while he shopped, but that was okay. He’d make her wait until Spike was up to share the news anyway.


~*~*~*~*~


The other kids weren’t mean or anything. They just didn’t quite know what to make of a new girl who’d lost pretty much her entire family, Dawn figured.

Of course, it probably didn’t help that she’d been so very honest about being in therapy to deal with the losses.

She’d been much less honest about the other things she was seeing Doctor Krenst’c for; mostly because the last thing Dawn wanted or needed was for her new classmates to think she was insane, which they would if she mentioned Hellmouths and demons.

So she was ‘new girl’ to most of the other students and they weren’t friendly but they also weren’t unfriendly, and that had been her day, right up until her fifth class.

Dawn glanced quickly at the large, standard-issue clock on the wall and sighed to herself. Another hour and a half and Xander would be there to get her.

Maybe she should have been offended that he was keeping such close tabs on her, but privately she couldn’t blame him. She hadn’t forgotten the way she’d acted with that… boy… at the motel and she seriously doubted that Xander had, either.

“I’m Bailey,” she heard whispered from the seat beside her, and when Dawn turned surprised eyes towards the owner of the voice that had spoken, she saw a very petite girl with wide blue eyes and brightly blonde hair.

“Dawn,” she whispered back, glancing at the teacher’s desk.

“I know,” Bailey answered with a grin. “I was the new girl until you got here. It’s nice to meet you. I…” she looked a bit uncomfortable, “My father died last year. Mom brought us here.”

And Dawn knew exactly how the other girl felt, so she didn’t even try to keep herself from reaching out one hand to squeeze Bailey’s for a bare moment. “It’s nice to meet you,” she smiled, then became all business when the instructor cleared his throat, announcing the beginning of class.

“All right. So last time, we were dealing with Chapter Twenty-three. The Ancient Roman Pantheon and the similarities it bore to that of the Ancient Greeks… any thoughts on the Gods, guys? Good? Bad? And were they real or just not so amusing fictions created by mankind to explain Nature’s war against itself?”

Dawn blinked.

She wasn’t entirely sure of what she’d been expecting when she’d selected Mythology as an Honors Elective, but it definitely hadn’t been this.

Bailey giggled quietly at the look on the other girl’s face. “Mr. Halonk is always like this,” she murmured before giving her undivided attention to their teacher.


~*~*~*~*~


“I think Mr. Halonk is definitely my favorite teacher,” Dawn announced as she and Bailey left Study Hall, which they’d both turned out to have as their final period of the day. “And I mean ever! He didn’t even…” she blushed slightly and shook her head.

Bailey grinned widely and nodded. “I know. I had him last year for Ancient Civ and he didn’t even say a thing about me being new. He just started class. I guess he figured everyone already knew I was new, so why point it out?”

Dawn laughed a little bit sheepishly. “Yeah, that’s just it. I was starting to feel like… a bug under a microscope after all the other teachers had to ‘introduce’ me and stuff.”

“Dawn?” the other girl said softly, biting her lip just a bit, “Can I ask you something? I mean, it’s fine if you don’t want me to, but…”

The taller girl sighed and looked down, then nodded. “O-okay…” Whatever it was, she hoped her answer didn’t scare Bailey. It had been too long since she’d had a friend her own age. Xander and Spike were great, but… they were older and not girls, and… “What do you want to know?”

“Well, I know… I mean, I heard… you’re from California?”

Dawn blinked. “Yeah…”

“Is everyone out there really blonde and rich and super skinny? Because that sounds kind of… weird. Like X-Files weird, you know?” Bailey blushed. “I don’t mean… Crap. I just called your home state weird, didn’t I? I have this thing sometimes. With my mouth. It just doesn’t… stop.”

And that was definitely the last thing Dawn had been expecting the girl to ask, if only because Sunnydale was still in the news every now and again when the crews clearing the ‘dangerous sinkhole’ came across something they couldn’t explain.

The laugh bubbled out of her before she could stop it and she dropped her school bag and sat down quickly on one of the large stone steps in front of the school. “Well, to be fair,” she said slowly, smiling at the girl who had sat down beside her, “parts of California are kind of like that. But not where I lived. There were way more types than just… blondes.”

Bailey grinned back. “Oh, good. Because, you know… even when Dad was… well, before he…” She swallowed hard and made her smile a bit brighter by sheer force of will. “Just… we always lived places that were really… diverse, you know? But here, people here seem to think that…” She shrugged and looked uncomfortable. “I don’t mean in the city, I mean in school. It’s like… either you fit into one of the little boxes or you don’t really exist, you know? You… well, they’ll give you a month or two but if you don’t look like you’re fitting in with any of them, then…”

“Some things never change,” Dawn muttered before shrugging at her new friend. “That’s High School everywhere, I think. It wasn’t any different in Sunnyd… California. Sunny California. I’ll deal.”

The blonde girl sighed and shook her head. “That’s not… what I mean is… if you keep hanging out with me, I just don’t… fit here. It’s like that whole round peg, square hole thing, or maybe I’m a triangle peg or something but whatever, it’s just… I like you Dawn, but… they don’t like me, and…”

She’d been formed from Buffy, Dawn reminded herself. She’d faced a Hellgod, vampires, demons… that snake-thing, even. She’d be damned if she was going to let a bunch of kids she didn’t even know control her life.

“Are you gonna find out all my secrets and talk behind my back?” she asked after a tense moment of silence. “Are you gonna pretend to be my friend and then ditch me as soon as we don’t agree on something? Or dis me if ‘they’ suddenly start being nice to you?”

“No!” Bailey nearly screeched, looking horrified, “I’d never… that’s not how I… I wouldn’t…!”

Dawn grinned and flung her arm around the smaller girl’s shoulders. “Good. ‘Cause I’d never do that either. I… you know about my Mom, right? That she… died?”

Bailey nodded silently, hoping against hope that she maybe finally had a friend. “Yeah…”

“Well, Mom always used to say that I should make my own decisions and not follow the crowd.” She smiled a little sadly. “It took me a long time to get what she meant, but I think she wanted me to… be my own person. And that means not just buying into whatever the ‘popular’ kids are doing, right?”

It was strange conversation to be having with someone she’d just met, but Bailey had been so lonely for the last five months and what Dawn was saying made sense. Still… “I hope you don’t regret it later,” she said out loud, “But if you ever do, just say so. I mean, we could still be friends, just not… here.”

The dark-haired girl snorted. “Secret best friends who never talk or hang out or have lunch together? What is this, the second grade?”


~*~*~*~*~


Xander couldn’t help smiling as he strolled through the throngs of teenagers leaving the school; mostly because he could see Dawn off to the side on the top step and she seemed to be actually talking to another student.

That the other student was a girl made his smile even wider. He saw the looks some of the boys were giving Dawny, though the girl seemed to be oblivious, and he didn’t like them one bit. Hell, he knew exactly what they were thinking, considering he’d been just like them not so long ago.

So Dawn had a new friend—a girl—and Xander was thrilled for her.

“Hey, Dawn!” He called out, waving as he strode up the stone stairs, “How was your day?”

The brunette laughed, her eyes sparkling. “See? Mention his name and he appears,” she said to the girl beside her, her gaze clearly teasing as it fixed on Xander. “It’s like some… Pavlovian thing, I guess.”

Xander pressed one hand to his chest and gave Dawn his best stunned expression. “Pavlovian! Who’s the genius, with the genius-y genius comments?” He grinned and held that same hand out to the young blonde girl. “Hi. I’m Xander, Dawn’s Uncle.”

And somehow when Dawn had said she was living with her Uncle and his friend, she’d imagined someone much older… possibly balding, even. “But you… you’re like…” Bailey stared. “Hot!”

Xander figured his blush matched the girl’s. “Well, I thought it’d be colder out so I went with layers.”

Dawn giggled and thanked Xander with her eyes—for playing the fool and not embarrassing Bailey any more. “Xan, this is Bailey! She was the new girl before me, and... well, we’re gonna be friends.”

“Very cool,” he said with another grin. “So, you lovely ladies feel like helping a bachelor-type guy out? I’m gonna try to make dinner tonight—a special dinner—but I have no idea of what to buy.”

Naturally sculpted brown brows rose as Dawn looked at Bailey, and the taller girl grinned when her new friend nodded.

“I… as long as I’m home by five, I’d love to help, Mister, um…”

“Ah, just call me Xander,” he said, quickly putting his arms around both the girls’ shoulders. “I’m only like… seven years older than you. Uh, unless Dawny’s older, in which case maybe it’s more like eight, but still not that big of a difference, and anyway, ‘Mister Harris’ is so not me, right? I mean, Mister?” He grinned as the three of them quickly walked down the steps. “I still read X-Men, for fu… fun’s sake!”

The two girls giggled at the almost-slip and headed on down the sidewalk, entirely unaware of the envious and venomous stares being shot their way because of the tall, older hottie they were with.


~*~*~*~*~


“Mom was way older than Uncle Xan when he was born,” Dawn explained as they waited for Xander to get through the checkout line. “Like in her twenties, you know? Xan was kinda a surprise. I didn’t really know him until I was like… eight or nine.” And that was true enough, she figured, since that was how old she would have been when Mom and Buffy had moved to Sunnydale… and she did remember it and so did—had—everyone else, so… it was real. Real enough. “Then he came to our town and we all got to know him, and… when everything…”

Bailey frowned, sure there was more her friend wasn’t telling her, but then again, they’d really just met. Yeah, she told herself, Dawn would tell her the whole story when she was ready, and besides, she wasn’t a ghoul.

She knew Dawn was from Sunnydale. Everyone at school knew that. But being from Sunnydale didn’t mean her friend had to talk about it non-stop, and Bailey wouldn’t push. Besides… “I still say he’s hot,” she whispered, giggling when the man in question glanced at them.

Dawn giggled too and blushed. “I had such a crush on him when I was younger. I used to follow him around like a puppy.”

The blonde girl snuck another glance at her friend’s Uncle. “I don’t blame you,” she admitted with a blush of her own. “Shhhh!”

“Hey, you guys ready to go?” Xander said, joining them, “Or do you want to fawn over… Johnny Depp—who is way too old for you, by the way—and Orlando Bloom some more? And what the frilly heck kinda name is that, anyway?” He glared playfully at the covers of the teen magazines behind the girls. “But he’s too old for you, too. Now that Aaron Carter guy…”

Dawn groaned. “He’s like… a baby, Xander!”

“And you’re like… my little sister more than my niece, so I’m thinking a baby is just about right.” He narrowed his eyes and gazed at Bailey, as well. “That goes for you, too, missy. No boys old enough for… linoleum.”

“He means sex,” Dawn muttered to the confused blonde, entirely familiar with Xander’s bizarre euphemisms.


~*~*~*~*~


They’d walked Bailey home, which had turned out to be an old brownstone that had been split into four rather large apartments.

They’d almost gone in to meet her mother and older brother, but that was when the blonde girl had noticed one of the grocery sacks leaking, so they’d promised ‘next time’ and headed off on their way, Dawn noting and commenting with a grin that her friend’s place was only thirty blocks from theirs, so she’d be able to visit as much as Bailey would let her.

That, of course, led to a small argument about Dawn wandering the city on her own, which led to Dawn pouting, which—as usual—led to Xander promising she could go see Bailey whenever she wanted to as long as it was still light out and Spike said it was okay. Spike was slightly better at resisting the pout, though not by much.

However, not even the pout could make Xander tell Dawn why he was making a special dinner, although he’d definitely blushed when she’d teasingly asked whether she would be going to stay at Kent’s after.

“It’s not that kind of special, and I am not having this talk with you til you’re like… never,” he’d grumbled, still flushed.

Dawn giggled to herself, remembering the rest of that walk. Xander was much easier to get all flustered now that he and Spike were actually… something. She didn’t know what they were exactly, if she was going to be honest, but… they slept together in the literal sense, and they for damned sure kissed a lot. But there was still some sort of… tension there that sort of implied to her that they weren’t full-on physical yet, and even though she’d never really done anything but kiss a boy and touch a bit, she did recognize the tension.

Buffy had been like that with Angel… and Riley.

Willow, with Oz and Tara.

Xander had been like that before, too… but only with Cordelia, which had confused her when she was younger. When she was old enough to understand some of the things Anya said, though, she’d gotten it. No tension because… well, Anya was Anya.

So, tension. Big yes to sexual tension in their home.

Or maybe… maybe it wasn’t tension, she realized. Maybe it was just that… Xander and Spike wanted to be sure they were right together before they…

“It’s so romantic,” she sighed happily, even as she set her Mythology text on her bed. Her class was on Chapter 23, after all. She didn’t want to come off like a dummy.





Part Twenty-Two

Dinner… well, what could he say about dinner?

It had been both a rousing success and a stunning failure.

A success because Dawny and Spike had appreciated his efforts, and a failure because even though they’d tried, neither of them had been able to quite look like they’d believed the words of congratulations they’d been haltingly sharing.

And okay, it wasn’t the kind of job he’d hoped for, but when he’d seen the guy stalking away from the place while shouting bile-filled imprecations, he’d taken a chance. And at least it would be something while he looked for what he wanted… what he’d earned through the sweat of his brow and body.

Of course, they’d seen his disappointment in their response. They knew him better than anyone else now, after all, so how could they not have seen? And they’d reacted to it in a way that had completely derailed any unhappiness he’d felt in that moment.

They’d done the dishes, all the while telling each other—loudly—how good the steaks with haricot vert and roasted garlic mashed potatoes had been… and then they’d dragged him to the couch to watch ‘Real Genius’ which was one of his guilty pleasures.

And when Dawn had finally gone to bed after glancing at the clock and groaning, they’d moved on to ‘Ronin’, which had the longest car chase Xander had ever seen, which explained right there why Spike liked it so much.

There were kisses, all of which had the human moaning happily, even while his father’s voice rambled on and on in the back of his mind… but he wasn’t hearing that voice as loudly as he once had. He could—mostly—ignore it.

Mostly.


~*~*~*~*~


‘Not your fault,’ he heard dream-Spike murmuring, even as young Xander went through his own personal hell yet again. ‘Not your fault, pet. Didn’t do anythin’ wrong. Never your fault, the bloody monster was already there. You didn’t invite him in, Xan… didn’t ask for it, luv…’

And even though he was his younger self, he also wasn’t. He was there, over the couch and screaming… and yet this time he was also not. Instead, he—or some part of him—was with Spike, in those cool, strong arms as the vampire’s tightly controlled yet still furious voice continued the words over and over.

‘Not your fault, luv… never your fault. Sick fuck he was, but you were never anythin’ but pure and good. Know it, pet. Know it, I do. Won’t let him hurt you, Xan, never again, not even once more. Nothin’s goin’ ta hurt you ever again. Promise it… Not your fault, luv… never yours…’

He couldn’t quite separate himself completely from his younger self, but he didn’t feel entirely connected either, and he knew somehow that he had Spike to thank for that. Even in his sleep, even in the midst of his own inner turmoil, lessened or not, he pressed closer to the long, cool form he knew was there, trusting to his love—and Xander could admit that Spike was exactly that while he was sleeping—to keep him as safe from his own past as anyone could.

He sighed softly in his sleep and pressed closer to the cool body holding him so tightly, his own arms just as intent upon connection.


~*~*~*~*~


It wasn’t the perfect job and Xander knew it, even though he’d made that ‘celebratory dinner’ that had actually turned out to be mostly edible.

Hell, this was so far from his construction work that it was clearly on a whole other planet. Then again, he hadn’t really needed much in the way of references, so he figured he could manage to be a waiter for a while. He wasn’t even sure they’d bothered to check on his incredibly large amount of fast food work, but even if they had, well… most of the chains had been national so at least there was a chance, if they did.

The money wasn’t bad since he’d finished training, and the hours… well, the hours worked better than construction hours would have. He got up, walked Dawn to school, went home for a couple more hours with Spike, then left for work.

He was unusual at the restaurant, mostly because the rest of the wait staff were willing to fight for dinner shifts, which meant higher tips, but… lunch shifts were fine with him.

He worked, handled his sidework, and almost always made it to Dawn’s school by three… and on the rare occasion that he ran late, the girl was more than willing to wait on the steps in good weather, or in the school Library when it was less than clement out. Then again, maybe the Library reminded her of happier times.

“Party tonight, Xander,” Janine reminded him as he grabbed his jacket and pulled it on over his uniform. “Think you’ll make it? I’ll save you a dance…”

Xander gave her an apologetic smile. “I doubt it. Can’t leave Dawn on her own, you know?”

The brunette woman arched a brow. “I thought you had a roommate. Can’t he watch her or whatever?”

“Uh, we sort of… like to hang out together, uh… after work, and…” Xander blushed a little.

Chet laughed as he hustled by with a full tray, heading for his new—and last—table. “Substitute boyfriend for ‘roommate’ and you’d be closer, Jan,” he announced with a wink as he moved off.

Janine rolled her eyes. “You know, he’s so sure everyone’s gay!” She giggled, the sound dying out when she noticed the deepening flush of Xander’s face. “Oh… ohhhhhhh!” And wasn’t that just her luck? New guy, smoking hot, funny and smart… of course he was gay. Why had she ever thought otherwise?

Xander groaned and dropped his head, staring at the floor. “How the hell did he know about Spike?”

“Gaydar, sweetie,” Chet announced, even as he nearly ran into the kitchen.

Xander groaned again. “I… need to go. It’s almost three.”

Janine sighed as she watched the tall, handsome man leave. “Guess it’s true what they say,” she muttered, “all of the good ones are married, taken, or gay… and sometimes all three.”


~*~*~*~*~


“Come on,” Dawn wheedled, giving both her guardians the patented Summers puppy-eyes-and-pout, “Her Mom will be home and everything and she says it’s fine… so can I? Please?” And she understood why they were a little suspicious. After all, the last time she’d said she was going on a sleepover, she and Janice had almost gotten eaten—and not in the good way, though she’d be damned if she ever admitted that she knew there was a good way… or not to Spike and Xander, anyway.

Spike’s eyes narrowed as he treated the girl to yet another searching stare. “Uh-huh. And what about that brother of hers, then? That why you’re so bloody set on this?”

Dawn groaned and rolled her eyes. “Darian? Can we say ewww? He’s like… twenty! And besides, he’s way too tall. I mean… come on, Spike, I’ve met the guy like once… and he looked at me like I was some kind of fetus or something!” She shuddered. “But Bailey says he won’t even be home. Apparently he has some sort of girlfriend who can actually stand him.”

One scarred brow arched and the vampire snorted softly. “Think someone’s protestin’ too much, pet…”

Xander couldn’t help laughing. Dawn had thought she’d had it bad back in the day, but now, with Spike acting as ‘older brother’, the poor girl was screwed. Fortunately for her, though, he was her other ‘sibling’, so…

He cleared his throat, giving both girl and vampire a stern look when they finally glanced at him.

“How about we call Bailey’s Mom? Just to make sure she really doesn’t mind? And if she says it’s okay, we’ll walk you over.”

Spike frowned even though Xander’s suggestion made sense. He wasn’t sure of what his problem was exactly, but… the Bit was Family and she’d never been away overnight before, aside from the one time she’d stayed with Kent because the two of them had planned some bizarre pre-sunrise visit to a salvage sale just a few days after the move to the bigger place.

Brown eyes and blue met for a shocking moment and Spike groaned silently, because maybe… just maybe… he was afraid of what he might do if he and Xander were alone in the apartment.

He’d been so careful not to push, not to make his boy uncomfortable, but… could he really keep himself from…

He groaned again and forced his eyes to leave Xander’s.

“Y-yah, Niblet,” he allowed, hoping he didn’t sound as shaky as he felt, “Xan’s right. We’ll… do that.”


~*~*~*~*~


Xander frowned deeply as his favourite blond nearly ran from the living room, then relaxed when he heard the tell-tale sounds of the refrigerator door opening, then the microwave starting a few moments later. Spike was hungry. That explained everything.

“I’ll call, Dawny. And if Mrs. Scanlon says it’s okay, you’ll be going out for the night.”

Dawn almost bounced but reminded herself that she was sixteen—nearly seventeen—so she simply flung herself at Xander and hugged him hard. “I’m gonna go pack!” she called excitedly over her shoulder as she fled to her room.

Xander laughed, even as he hoped Bailey’s mother really didn’t mind. He hadn’t seen Dawn so excited since… well, just since.


~*~*~*~*~


Mrs. ‘call me DeeDee, please, after all, you’re her Uncle and her… her Uncles’ Scanlon truly hadn’t minded having Dawn for the night. In fact, she’d been almost as excited about the idea as the teenaged girls were, as Spike and Xander found out when they dropped Dawn off.

‘I’m so relieved that Bailey finally has a friend’, she told them once the girls had darted off to Bailey’s room. ‘It’s been hard for her, considering. And Philadelphia may still be Northern, but it’s not like Cleveland. I just… thank you for letting Dawn come tonight. Bailey… well, the last few months she’s been… never mind. Just thank you.’

The fact that the woman was so obviously sincere had made both of them feel good about leaving their girl with her friend.

The fact that the brother—Darian—really was going to be gone all night made them feel even better.

Still, that had been almost two hours past, and now that they were home, somehow Xander felt… confused.

Usually he and Spike would have been necking on the couch by 10 PM, but here it was 10:30, and the vampire was all the way at the other end of that same piece of furniture and he didn’t get it. He’d hoped that maybe they would kiss some more… touch more than they’d done before.

Hell, he’d hoped that being entirely alone with no time limit might make Spike move… faster.

And yet here he was. All by himself on his end of the sofa. And Spike… Spike was staring fixedly at the TV, apparently absorbed by whatever the hell they were watching on HGTV.

It was… disappointing, to say the least, and Xander sighed.

“What?” Spike demanded anxiously. “You cold, luv? Warm? Hungry?” He jumped up from his seat. “Popcorn! I’ll make you some popcorn, yah? Yah! That’s it. Need somethin’ ta snack on, right?”

And Xander blinked repeatedly as the blond ran from the living room. “What the fuck…?”


~*~*~*~*~


“Moron,” the vampire growled to himself, stabbing roughly at the touchpad on the microwave. “Bloody fuckin’ moron! Can smell the bloke, know he’s wantin’, and what do I do? Run ta make bleedin’ popcorn?” He snarled. “Was easier before the bloody soul. Could have—would have—just had at him. Made him like it. Or not. Wouldn’t have cared, would I?”

And just like that, he was sighing, because… while that might have been true at some point, even that last year before the soul he’d come to care for the boy. He’d hidden it, granted, but… he’d cared. Cared enough to go to that sad disaster of a wedding, in any case, and not just because he’d known Buffy would be there.

“Don’t want ta hurt him,” he told the slowly rotating popcorn bag, watching as it expanded and fired off like a bag of truly tiny firecrackers.

“You won’t,” Xander said softly, one hand finding Spike’s shoulder. He grinned a little shakily when the blond jumped. “You won’t hurt me, Spike,” he said clearly, meeting wide blue eyes when Spike turned. “I know you won’t. But we… we’re here. Alone. And I…” He sighed and shook his head, letting his hand drop. “I just… want more, okay? Unless… did you… change your mind? I mean, maybe you meant ‘hurt’ like hurt my feelings.” He frowned and stepped back. “I… I get it. It’s… cool. I can just… popcorn. Popcorn is good, and I’ll just…”

‘Want more…’ was all Spike could hear. ‘I just… want more.’

The demon was roaring satisfaction deep inside him, even while the soul was trying to calm it and do a little dance, and all Spike could hear was those words; all he could feel was that warm, strong hand on his shoulder, and…

“Wait!” he nearly shouted as that warmth left him and he finally noticed the despondence that his bloke hid so quickly beneath a fake smile. “Wait,” he said again, demanding it. “Xander… Xan. I… changed my mind? Are you bloody well out of yours?”

The human shook his head again, gripping the popcorn bag tightly. “Look, it’s okay, Spike. I… I know I’m… damaged goods, okay? I mean…” Shit. He’d gotten so used to dreaming that Spike was there in his memories that he’d almost forgotten that even that part was a dream. “I should be able to…” he bit his lip, then yelped slightly when he suddenly found himself held close and tight by Spike’s cool arms.

“Xander… Xander… bloody hell, luv… no!” And fuck him if he wasn’t babbling, but Spike couldn’t seem to care; not even when his demon was railing at him for being a ponce. “What you’ve been through, pet, amazed you can even let me touch you, hold you, yah? Bloody fuckin’ stunnin’ that you can even talk ta me, much less let me sleep beside you, wrapped around you!”

He groaned softly, pulling the slightly taller man even closer. “Love snoggin’ you, Xan. Love it. Love feelin’ you against me, no matter what time of day or night. Love that you can let me touch you, stroke you off, yah? Just… afraid what I might do now, I want you so bloody bad!”

There was something about what Spike had just said that had Xander baffled, but on the whole he was entirely too distracted by the way the vampire was holding him. His own arms wrapped just as tightly around the cooler form, matching the tight grasp. “I trust you, Spike,” he murmured, his heart racing wildly. “I do. I trust you. I… know you won’t do anything to hurt me, okay?”

Spike held on tighter, breathing hard as he tried to control himself and his immediate reaction to those three words. ‘I trust you’. Xander trusted him! He really, truly did, and Spike was sure of it, simply because he’d have sensed a lie, no matter how well-intentioned.

“Oh, pet,” he whispered, burying his face in the crook of his bloke’s neck, “wish I trusted myself…”

“Try,” Xander whispered back. “I’ll help.”


~*~*~*~*~


The popcorn bag was likely somewhere on the kitchen floor and Xander didn’t care in the slightest. He didn’t think he’d actually opened it, but even if he had… “God… yes… Spike, please…”

The vampire would have smirked at that tone, had it been anyone but his Xan using it. As it was, though, all he could do was give the bloke what he was sure was a completely besotted look. “Never tell you no, luv…” he murmured, long, elegant fingers dancing slowly over fully revealed flesh. “Never hurt you, Xan. Never do anythin’ ta cause you pain or sorrow, yah…? Make you feel good, I will. Always, pet.”

He wasn’t entirely sure that he believed that, but he did know that the blond would try, and really, that was more than he could say for anyone else he’d been involved with. “I… I know, Spike. I… God, that’s…”

Spike chuckled just a little, running his nails lightly over the same peaked nipple again. His eyes traveled slowly down Xander’s long, naked body then back up to meet tentative brown eyes. “Bloody lovely, pet… seein’ all of you like this. Goin’ ta touch every inch of you, I am… taste you all over, luv.”

And God help him, Xander thought, because he didn’t think there was anything he wanted more; didn’t think there ever had been. He swallowed hard, sneaking a few glances at the pale shape beside him, Spike’s position propped up on one elbow giving him the perfect view. “I… yes… please?” he said, biting his lip slightly.

He could actually smell how nervous his bloke was; how uncertain. But he could also readily identify Xander’s intense arousal and desire, so… “Think I’m goin’ ta start with your lips, luv… never get enough of them, y’know…”





Part Twenty-Three

He’d actually forgotten to be scared. Forgotten to freak and push Spike away even when the blond’s cool body draped over him, those soft, full lips attacking his own tenderly but no less fiercely for that gentleness.

He found his fingers roaming slowly over Spike’s back, tracing each slight knob of vertebrae, each flesh-softened ridge of rib. His tongue tangled slowly, softly with its counterpart, mapping the well known cavern of the vampire’s mouth as though for the first time.

And maybe it was the first time, Xander realized blearily.

The first time he’d felt Spike on top of him with no fabric acting as safety between them… first time he’d been this close to another naked male—except for that time Larry had tripped in the locker room and ended up sprawled on the floor, dragging Xander down on top of him, but that was way different—the first time his heart had pounded nearly hard enough to burst from his chest with no reason other than the man…vampire, whatever… touching him; and God, God help him, the first time he truly understood exactly what he wanted from his… “lover,” he moaned against those lips. “God, I am so fucking gay…”

Spike found himself blinking even as he lifted his head a few inches to arch his brows. “Tell me, luv,” he murmured as he relaxed his tight muscles slightly, letting himself press harder onto his bloke’s hot flesh, “What gave it away? The way you’ve been moanin’ and sighin’, just from touchin’ me?” He smirked. “Or the fact that your bloody cock is hard enough ta drive nails?”

Xander groaned and shook his head, his fingers tightening on cool skin as he pulled Spike down tighter on him. “Maybe that I swear I’m about to come… just from the naked kissing,” he admitted with a deep blush.

“Can’t have that,” the vampire whispered, his eyes closing as he inhaled the suddenly stronger sweet-spice scent of his boy’s blood so close to the surface. “No comin’ yet… want ta be tastin’ you when you do. Feel you throbbin’ on my tongue, pet, those little drips swirlin’ through my mouth, fillin’ me with your taste, surroundin’ me with your scent… swallow you down, luv… every bloody wonderful inch, yah?”

And Jesus, he’d had Spike’s hand on him before, even had the vampire jerk him off… well, more like stroke him off, but whatever… but even that hadn’t been as good as the idea of Spike’s mouth on him because with as amazing as the blond’s hands and fingers were, Xander had a strong suspicion that his lips and tongue would be even better, and… and then he made the mistake of imagining what it would be like to look down his own body and see that blond head bobbing, see those wide blue eyes—or maybe golden ones—peering up at him, and…

“F-fuck!” Xander yelped, his hips rocking uncontrollably against the long, thick shaft laying beside his own, “Spike, I…! Fuck!”

The vampire’s eyes went wide for a moment before returning to their usual size as he chuckled roughly and leaned down to meet gasping lips quickly. “Guessin’ you like that idea, then. I’m glad, Xan… ‘s next on my list, y’know. Of course,” he smirked, “gettin’ there’s half the fun, right?”


~*~*~*~*~


He was almost embarrassed about the way he’d just exploded, but it was entirely too hard to focus on that when Spike was touching him; fuck, licking him. His skin, starting with his face… soft lips on his jaw, his neck, finding the top of his shoulder and settling there for a few minutes.

He arched slowly, a long, shaky breath leaving him as Spike sucked firmly, insistently at his skin, and he had a feeling he was going to come out of this with at least one mark, but he’d be damned if he cared. “Spike…” he sighed, “That feels… so… fucking good…”

“Just the beginnin’, luv,” the vampire murmured, eyes closed as he refreshed his memory of Xander’s taste, cataloguing each small difference. “Gets better…”

“God… help me…”

Spike chuckled and slowly moved his mouth to the warm chest, rubbing his cheek lightly over one tight nipple before taking it into his mouth, tongue laving it slick while his fingers teased the other tiny male nub to a matching point. “Alright, pet?” he whispered against the tight bud, “Or too much too fast…?”

“Nnnngh… n-n-no… F-fine…” Xander moaned, one hand clutching tightly at the sheet beneath him while the other rested on Spike’s flexing shoulder. “God, S-spike… don’t…”

“Don’t what, pet?” Spike groaned, pulling himself away from the lightly pulsing nub. “Tell, me, Xan. Won’t do anythin’ ya don’t want…”

Xander couldn’t quite manage to hold back his disappointed mewl at the loss of Spike’s mouth, though it had been tormenting him in a way he’d never imagined. Still, he wanted more of it. “Don’t stop,” he demanded, not caring in the slightest that he was begging.

The vampire groaned again as his shaft rubbed slick, clear fluid on his bloke’s heated skin. “Right, then… no stoppin’. Want me ta stop, luv, you need ta say… bloody hell…”

“P-petunia!” Xander announced. “Please, Spike… don’t stop now…”

Blue eyes danced and the blond laughed softly. “You were right, pet… you are so fuckin’ gay. Petunia it is, then.” And with that, his head dipped again, letting him resume his happy task, which was—of course—driving his bloke crazy with enough want that he’d never even think ‘petunia’, much less say it.

“Goin’ ta make you come again, luv… just because I like the way you sound when you do.” Hell, his boy had made noises he’d never heard coming from a human before. It was… neat.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander had a feeling that if he could see himself right then, he’d be mortified by the way he must look all spread out on the bed, skin flushed, chest heaving with groans and breathy moans.

Then again, he didn’t care. Not when he had his fingers tangled in soft blond hair, and definitely not when he could feel quick, unnecessary breaths ghosting across the head of his penis, and… “Please…” he breathed helplessly.

Spike rumbled softly, staring up the long expanse of smooth skin. “Look at me, luv,” he murmured. “Need you ta know it’s me, yah…?”

He waited another moment while his bloke apparently processed those words, and he groaned when hot, deep brown eyes met his. “Yah… just like that, Xan… want you ta see how much I want this, pet. So you never doubt it… never think this is somethin’ that doesn’t matter.”

He nearly came again at the first light sweep of that cool, wet tongue over his seeping tip. “Spike!” he yelped, bucking at the sensation.

A smirk crossed the vampire’s lips even as he lapped again, savoring the salty tinge that painted his tongue. “You were right about somethin’ else, Xander, back in the ‘dale… you really are a nummy treat. Keepin’ you, Xan. Not lettin’ you go. That alright with you?” Of course he wasn’t going to take a chance on the man saying no, which was part of the reason he chose that particular moment to wrap his lips around that thick, deep red head and suck gently.

Jesus… Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick! His fingers tightened on Spike’s hair, just holding on as his entire body shook roughly.

He’d had blow jobs before… many a time. But this… Jesus, this was Spike, and… and maybe it took another guy to know how to really suck a guy, and he still wasn’t freaking about the guy thing, and that was freaksome in and of itself, but he couldn’t think about it, wouldn’t think about it. Not when that amazing mouth was on him, around him; not when Spike was rolling that slick, flexible tongue against the underside of him; not when pale, elegant fingers pressed hard into his thighs, and definitely not when he was trapped in those wide, wanton blue eyes, seeing nothing there but desire and need and… and the emotion neither of them had ever really spoken of out loud.

“God,” he gasped, arching into the sheer perfection, his toes flexing repeatedly as he tried to hold on. “Spike, I… God, baby, gonna…” And then it was too late for more words because those eyes narrowed just a bit and that mouth sucked harder, and somehow Xander was suddenly in Spike’s throat, and…

His bloke’s shout echoed in the room, rising and falling in almost perfect synch with the rapid spurts of musky seed shooting into his mouth. His hands held tighter to supple skin and he couldn’t help purring around the softening shaft. Xander would bear bruises from his fingers for days and that… pleased him—pleased all of him.

His hips rocked slightly, brushing his own still-hard cock against the mattress beneath him, even as he pulled his mouth from his lover and slowly kissed the softened flesh, then Xander’s just-emptied balls. “Beautiful, luv,” he smiled into stunned eyes, “Bloody fuckin’ gorgeous, you are… amazin’ ta see you, hear you come for me, Xan. Don’t think I’ll ever get enough of that, yah…?”

“God… I… fuck, Spike…” Xander somehow managed to say, “I… can you… fuck, just… get up here and… can I… fuck, kiss me again, okay? I…” need to feel you on me he thought but couldn’t quite say. “Please…”

“Always do that, luv,” Spike said seriously, crawling up the heated form. He laid himself carefully on top of his boy, eyes finally leaving Xander’s as he joined their mouths gently. He wished he could just dive right in, but Xander probably needed tenderness more than desperation right then, and no matter how much Spike wanted to come on top of his boy, he could wait.

“Always kiss you, pet,” he whispered against warm lips. “Always, Xander, always, yah? Won’t stop ‘less you tell me ta…”

“Never, then,” Xander answered, holding the blond harder on him. “Or not for long, anyway.” He felt himself smiling, then laughed. “But maybe we should take care of your, um… you’re still… I mean, you d-didn’t…”

A chuckle and hip roll that made the boy grunt, and Spike was smirking again. “Not ta worry, luv… got all night, don’t we?”

God… maybe Dawn would want to stay at Bailey’s again soon, Xander thought, even as he lost himself in the touch of Spike’s cool skin against his own still-heated flesh.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander still wasn’t panicking when he found himself laying between Spike’s spread thighs, the vampire’s hardness mere inches from his face. “It’s… different,” he announced, voice soft but curious.

Blue eyes closed and Spike forced himself not to rush the boy. He wasn’t sure of exactly what Xander was planning to do down there, but whatever it was, pushing too hard or too fast would likely put a stop to it. “Circumcision wasn’t a popular thing when I was a lad, Xan, ‘ceptin’ amongst certain religious groups, yah…?” He swallowed hard and tried not to arch against the bed.

“Can I…” Xander started, blushing furiously as he shook his head and slowly touched the seeping shaft. “Does it… hurt? I mean, it looks…”

“Like a turtle comin’ out of its shell? Yah, heard that before. Bloody hell, Xander…”

And from the way Spike was shivering, he was guessing that was a big ‘no’ on the hurting. In fact, the blond seemed to want… he wrapped his fingers loosely around the base of Spike’s cock. “I… I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to… I just never saw… never looked.”

Spike groaned, finally giving in to the urge to move. “ ‘s fine, luv,” he mumbled, hips rocking gently between the mattress and the hot hand on him. “Bloody hell, that’s nice, pet… don’t stop, yah?”

He leaned closer, fingers tightening just a bit as he cocked his head. “I won’t, Spike. I just… you’ll tell me if I’m doing it wrong? I mean…”

And just like that, Spike found his own hand wrapping around Xander’s, stilling the small movements of his fingers. “Luv… wait. Just wait, yah? Come here, Xan.”

The brunette frowned but shifted a bit, inching his way up Spike’s pale, toned body. “I knew I was doing it wrong, I… shit! I just, I’m… nervous.” He sighed.

“Thinkin’ too much, pet. That’s all. And there’s no wrong way ta touch me, luv.” The vampire smiled, ignoring his own body’s demands for the moment. “Love your hands on me, Xander. The heat of you alone ‘s bloody well stunnin’. The fact that you even want ta touch me…” Spike shook his head. “No need ta be nervous, luv. Feels so bloody good just ta be here with you, yah?”

It was the simple sincerity in Spike’s voice that had Xander shaking, himself. “So maybe I should just… do what feels good to me and it’ll be okay?” He bit his lip softly, meeting the vampire’s eyes with a sheepish smile.

“Could always make me come just from kissin’ me, pet. Seem ta recall that workin’ a few times before… and if you ever repeat that outside this room, I’m goin’ ta have ta kill you.”

Xander laughed and pressed a slow, wet kiss to Spike’s neck. “Nah… let’s try something new.”

Long, pale fingers stroked slowly over silky brown hair as Xander’s lips moved to skim gently over his chest. “Xander… hell, pet, so bloody good…”

He almost couldn’t believe that he was going to do this, but he didn’t think he’d be able to stand it if he didn’t. He was safe with Spike, trusted him. There wasn’t anything to be afraid of. So maybe he was gay like he’d announced earlier, but so what? It didn’t have to mean anything bad… and Dr. Krenst’c was right. It didn’t have to hurt, or not like what his Dad had done to him, and… and he could do this, or do something, anyway. He could and he would.

The determination lasted until he’d reached his earlier position, eye to eye—so to speak—with the vampire’s deeply pink shaft, his fingers once more wrapped around its base.

He couldn’t do this. He just couldn’t.

And then Xander made either the biggest mistake of his life or his smartest move ever.

He looked up that stunning and chiseled form and was suddenly lost in the look on Spike’s face—the look that spoke more clearly than words and told volumes about the feelings the blond nurtured for him.

“Spike,” he whispered, holding those eyes with his own as he dipped just a bit and let his tongue lap slowly at the seeping head… and his love’s gasped cry only made him more certain that he was doing the right thing. For both of them.


~*~*~*~*~


The middle-aged and somewhat heavyset man stared up at the apartment building, beady eyes narrowing as he tried to figure out which windows he was supposed to be staring at.

He tightened his scarf slightly around his neck, although he wasn’t cold… or not much, anyway. The layers of fat beneath his skin insulated him a good bit, as well as the numerous drinks he’d had earlier.

It had taken him a good bit of time and money to find this place, and he was for damned sure going to get it all back, and more.

His eyes narrowed further, even as he chuckled low and dark.

Oh, yeah… he was going to get everything that he deserved, all right. He just needed to figure out the schedule of the so-called men first.

Finally, the copious amount of alcohol in his blood started to wear off and he shook himself roughly.

Time to go back to that bar and make a few more contacts. He might not need help with his little project, but it never hurt to be prepared. Besides, that waitress had looked like a goer and he was sure he could charm her into his pants.





Part Twenty-Four

Something had definitely changed between her ‘Uncles’ and Dawn knew it.

Oh, the tension was still there, but it was… mellowed, sort of, and both of the men seemed somehow more comfortable with each other and themselves, which the girl was very glad of.

She snuck another glance at them from beneath her lashes, grinning to herself at the way they were tangled together on the couch, Spike hurling kernels of popcorn at the TV and making rude comments to the characters whenever they did something that was—in his opinion—‘bloody well stupid’, and Xander simply laughing and reminding the vampire that the vacuum worked for demons as well as humans.

“Might work for us, pet,” she heard Spike say, “But that doesn’t mean I’m goin’ ta use it…”

Her smile grew deeper when Xander leaned close to Spike’s ear and said something—probably a threat of some kind—that had the blond blinking and agreeing to clean up while Xander was at work the next day.

She was still grinning as the movie ended, credits rolling undisturbed for a moment before being compressed to make room for the image of one of the local news anchors.

“More news from Sunnydale, California,” he announced, smiling as though the town had won the lottery rather than being sucked into a hole. “Salvage crews have discovered the remains of…”

“Don’t much care, do we?” Spike snapped, tossing the remote onto the coffee table and pulling away from the warm shape of his boy. “Nothin’ left for any of us there, yah?”

Xander took a sharp breath, forcing himself not to look at Dawn. “Spike…”

Although her wide grin had faded, Dawn managed to muster a tiny smile.

She sat up fully, pulling herself from the couch-slouch she’d been in, and stared seriously at the two men. “Guys…” she began, small tears forming in the corners of her eyes, “I know, okay? I mean, I’m ‘brilliant’, right? I…” She swallowed hard and let out a long, deep breath. “If we haven’t heard anything by now, she… they didn’t make it. I can… deal.”

Xander was the first to speak after Dawn’s declaration, and when he did it was with a certain sort of amazed wonderment. “But she did, Dawny,” he finally said. “She made sure you made it out, so in a way… she’s still with us.”

Spike watched his girl’s face as it trembled and shivered. He watched her eyes as they blinked repeatedly. He watched her arms wrap closely around her own slim waist, and he… caved, just like he always did at the slightest sign of his Niblet in distress.

Mere seconds later had the three of them knotted together in a comforting tangle, and if it took a good twenty minutes before any of them could speak without crying at the truth being spoke aloud, well… none of them would ever remind the others.

They actually managed to fall asleep just like that, each and every one of them soothed by the sensation of family, and when Dawn woke hours later and somehow slipped from the hold of her two ‘brothers’—or ‘Uncles’—she was amazed that they hadn’t all fallen off of the couch.

She smiled as Spike and Xander snuggled into each other once she was gone, then went to their room and grabbed a blanket to cover them with before going to her own room and changing.

They were both worn out, she figured. Why wake them?

She snuggled down good and warm with her bunny, holding it to her less desperately than she’d done in the past and forced herself to relax as the CD Bailey had burned for her played in the machine next to her bed.

Her sister was dead. Willow was dead. Giles, Andrew, Anya, Faith, the Potentials… They were all gone.

She’d known it already, of course, because otherwise they’d have heard something. But tonight… tonight she’d admitted it out loud, and it felt… right.

They’d done their best with the Sunnydale Survivors Sanctuary, and they’d reunited hundreds of families—human and otherwise. Hell, they’d even included their own information on the ‘who are we’ page.

So, Dawn told herself as she drifted off to sleep again, her sister was gone. So were Xander’s parents and his best friend. She wasn’t the only one who’d lost something.

But maybe, her jumbled thoughts supplied, maybe she’d found something, too…


~*~*~*~*~


Waking up so close to Xander had been an eye-opener for him, if only because of the way his human’s cock felt when it was pressed so hard and tight to the cleft of his ass.

And there was no getting away from it—even if he’d wanted to, which he didn’t—because Xander somehow had him face-first against the back of the sofa.

He had a moment of panic when he wondered what had happened to the Bit, but when he focused he could hear her heart just a-thumping away in her room, and… why were they on the couch again?

Then Xander mumbled something indecipherable and rocked against him… and Spike didn’t care, mostly because he was forming a plan.

It wasn’t a good plan, and even in his sleep-befuddled state, he knew it. But it was still a plan.

“Mmmmm…” he mumbled—step one in the plan—“We should… get ta bed, pet…”

Xander barely heard Spike’s voice, although it did register. “Nnnnghhhh…” he grunted, his arms closing tighter around the sleek, toned form before him. His lips found the nape of a cool neck and he rumbled happily in his sleepy state as he nipped there.

“Xander,” Spike groaned, pressing back into that intimacy, “Please, luv… need ta feel your skin on mine, yah? An’ we can’t do that out here where Dawn might see… not without runnin’ the chance of losin’ her…”

It was the mention of Dawn that had Xander swimming up from his slumberous condition so quickly, and he blushed when he realized he was biting the back of Spike’s neck. “Uh… okay…” He ignored the fact that he was hard and nearly… but they had clothes on, so it didn’t count, he figured.

Spike sighed softly and entirely to himself when Xander let go of him and moved away. That didn’t stop him from getting up himself and following, of course, his eyes locked on his bloke’s ass.

Screw the plan. Plans were for… vamps other than himself.

With that thought in mind, he waited until they were in their room and the door was locked before stripping to nothing and grabbing his fully clothed love.

Xander blinked, then laughed. Spike wanted to play? Well, it was Saturday night and he didn’t have to work until Monday, so he didn’t really have a problem with playing at a bit of slap and tickle…

Cotton flew as though it had developed wings, and in less than a minute, Spike was pressing himself to warm, silky skin.

“Want you inside me, Xan,” Spike moaned, rubbing hard against his bloke’s hot body. “Please, Xander… want you ta take me, have me, fill me up, yah? Been waitin’ so long, luv… so bloody long…”

And the plan was back on… or so he thought until he saw the shuttered look descending in his boy’s eyes.

“No!” Xander whimpered, pulling away, “I won’t… won’t h-hurt you like that, Spike! I l-love you! I can’t…”

And if it wasn’t the way he’d imagined his bloke saying those words out loud, Spike was just happy to hear them. Hell, he hadn’t even been sure Xander could say them. But he had, and there was no taking them back, and Spike was glad.

Still, he didn’t want to take the easy way out and say that pain was a vampire thing, even though it was for the most part. If he told his Xan that, after all, then his bloke would be convinced that he was right about how much it had to hurt, and… Spike desperately wanted to be inside his boy some day, just as much as he wanted his boy in him right then.

So he pulled Xander close again, their bodies colliding roughly, then dragged him down onto the bed. His hands cupped that too-paled face and he stared into wide and frantic brown eyes.

“You’re not your Dad, pet,” Spike said softly and seriously, “And I’m a good bit older than ten, yah?” He forced a tiny smile on his face when Xander looked… broken.

“Love you too, Xan… and it doesn’t have ta hurt like that. Doesn’t have ta make you—or me—bleed.”

Xander shook his head, doing his best not to heave at the thought of doing to someone else what had been done to him. “I… it’s not…” He sobbed softly, burying his face in the crook of Spike’s neck. “I can’t, Spike! I… I remember… how it feels!”

The blond held his lover closer, tighter, rubbing his cheek against soft, dark hair.

“D’you trust me?” he finally asked, unable to see any other way out of their situation. “Tell me true, Xan. Do you trust me? For real and certain, pet.”

One deep breath. Two. A third, and all of them exhaled against Spike’s collarbone.

A softly muttered “Y-yeah…”

“Then believe me,” Spike answered. “It can hurt, yah. Think you know that, pet. Doesn’t have to, though… not like that.”

He twitched, then wrapped the fingers of one hand in Xander’s silken locks, pulling the boy’s head back until sure blue eyes met frightened brown.

“Have me, luv,” Spike whispered. “No pain. No fear. Nothing but pure want, yah?”

Xander swallowed hard and shook his head. He couldn’t ever… not to Spike, not to anyone, and… and then he thought about Kent, of all people.

Kent who was so very, very gay…

Kent who had made no secret of the fact that he liked to both pitch and catch.

Kent who’d nearly brought down the ceiling when he’d gotten a paper cut a few days earlier because it had hurt so badly, and…

And Xander wanted Spike. There was no getting around that fact.

Hell, ‘little’ Xander was entirely on board, even. He was throbbing and seeping and he didn’t care where he went as long as he went somewhere.

“I… I don’t know how to…” Xander started, only to have his voice fade as he realized exactly how much he didn’t know. “Spike, I… fuck, please don’t let me hurt you.”

The vampire smiled, holding his bloke closer still. “Won’t hurt me, luv,” he murmured. “Or not in the bad way, yeah? Want you, I do. Makes a world of difference…”




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